Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
Quick reminder: back in chapters 8 and 18, Bella mentions Jake is married now, to Beth.
The mood in Charlie's living room was tense.
On the sofa, Sam, Seth, and Jacob formed a wall of hard muscle while Edward and I sat across from them on the two-seater. Charlie stood like a referee by the mantle, arms folded firmly across his chest, clearly ready to intercede if necessary.
I was nestled tight against Edward's side, his arm was firmly round me, and I wished again that the
day would just end. I was beyond tired. Beyond drained. My mind wandered to thoughts of bed and comfy pillows, soft blankets and Edward. I wanted to curl up with my head on his chest and his fingers in my hair, and fall asleep to the sound of his heart.
Instead I listened to the sound of his voice.
"I'll start," he said. "And we can get the most obvious questions out of the way. Yes, I'm human."
He went on, in a matter-of-fact tone, explaining about his change just as he had with Charlie, while leaving out the darker details.
"So, you mean...you're completely human now?" Sam asked.
Sam was studying Edward closely, like he was a puzzle that needed solving. He exhaled sharply, and shook his head. "I don't know," he said. "I don't know what this means."
"Don't you?" Edward's voice held some faint amusement. "I would have thought it was obvious."
Sam shot him a glare.
"Well, yeah, I guess, from what you've told us, from what I can see...this means...you're probably not a threat to us anymore."
Edward smiled a wry smile. "And yet, I never was."
Sam shrugged. "Maybe."
Seth leaned forward, his eyes wide as he gestured at Edward. "So, this all happened because you got that hiker's blood in you?"
"It's like some sort of antidote for being a vampire? Human blood?"
"That's one way of looking at it, yes."
"Wow." Seth sat back again. "Did it hurt? Changing back?"
I felt the subtle shift in Edward's posture. "Nothing I couldn't handle," he said.
"And now the treaty won't apply to you." Seth nodded seriously. "That makes life easier for Bella, doesn't it? And Charlie and Sue." He shrugged. "Even us. You know, no-one has to choose one person over another. Or stay away from friends."
Edward turned his attention to Sam. "Seth gets it," he said.
Sam ignored him.
Meanwhile, Jake was shaking his head, staring down at his feet. "It's not possible," he muttered.
With every word Edward had spoken, Jake had seemed to deflate; shoulders slumping, body seeming to shrink as he sat between his brothers. I guessed the impact of what he'd done, his betrayal not just of me, but of his pack, was starting to sink in.
He had washed his face over the laundry sink. The blood was gone and the wound around his eye now looked like it was a couple of days old but by the way he winced each time be blinked, it was clear that it still hurt.
"This is crazy, it's not possible," he said again.
"Oh, I dunno..." Seth said. "Why is it any crazier than us turning into wolves? Or him becoming a vampire in the first place?" He chuckled softly.
I'd always liked Seth and I realised now that in a lot of ways, he was like a werewolf version of Emmett with his easy-going outlook that was all about seeing the bright side and making the best of any situation.
"But it...it can't be possible," Jake repeated and I rolled my eyes.
"Really? Why not?" I snapped. "Because accepting the truth means you have nothing to get mad about now? Because now you have no excuse for acting the way you did in the yard?"
I was expecting him to bite back, but instead he hung his head.
"I never meant for it to turn out this way. I'm sorry."
His apology was unexpected, and definitely warranted, but it didn't let him off the hook.
"Would you be sorry if Edward was still a vampire?" When he stayed silent and looked away, I had my answer. "Yeah, didn't think so."
"You don't get it..." he muttered, still not meeting my eye, and not elaborating on what he meant.
Over by the mantle, Charlie cleared his throat.
"Seth said the treaty doesn't apply to Edward now, but I'm assuming that's the case for all the Cullens. The treaty's void, am I right?"
"I'm assuming the treaty was void the moment Jacob Black revealed the truth about me and my family." Edward fixed his gaze on Sam. "Am I right?"
Sam shifted awkwardly. "Yes," he said stiffly. "The treaty no longer stands. Jacob's put all of La Push at risk with his actions, and we'll deal with that separately. Privately."
Jacob ducked his head so low, I couldn't see his face.
"There will be no repercussions from our side," Edward said. "There is no threat to La Push."
Sam gave him a long hard look, from head to toe and back again. "Can you still speak for...your side?"
"Yes," Edward replied brusquely. "I can."
"But you're not one of them." Sam looked Edward over again, clearly sceptical. "You're not a vampire. Not a Cullen."
"I will always be a Cullen." Edward's tone said more than his words and the subtle edge in his voice raised goosebumps on my skin. "They are my family. I'm sure you understand the concept."
There was a flash of understanding in Sam's eyes. He blinked, and then dipped his head in acknowledgement.
"I get that," he said. "But even though you say there will be no repercussions, what guarantee can you give that the...other Cullens won't come onto our land, or demand some sort of atonement for the breach?"
I laughed, surprising even myself, and everyone looked at me.
"Sorry," I said. "But look, seriously, you must know how ridiculous that is. You do remember how the Cullens lived while they were here, don't you?" I looked from Sam to Jake and back again as my frustration grew. "Okay, sure, you know what? You're right. Carlisle might come onto your land now, but only if you needed medical attention and he thought he could help. Or hey, Esme might bring you some brownies if she had extra, she's actually a pretty good cook these days. Alice would be happy to give you a makeover and Jasper's really into history so he'd probably be interested in hearing all your stories. Is that the sort of thing you're afraid of?"
I took a breath, glaring at the men across from me.
Sam looked very uncomfortable. Jake buried his head in his hands.
I felt Edward's hand squeeze my knee, and when I turned to him he smiled, and gave me a wink.
"That's a fair assessment," he said. Then he sighed and stretched out his long legs as he settled deeper into the sofa and addressed Sam.
"But, it's not really up to us to guarantee anything, is it?" He sounded almost casual now and this seemed to unsettle Sam even more. The pack leader shifted awkwardly in his seat. His bare foot tapped erratically on the timber floor.
"We are the ones who've been wronged in this," Edward went on. "Not you. We are the ones put at risk. So I ask you, what guarantee can you give that we will not be exposed again in this way? Exposed to other residents of Forks? Or elsewhere?"
"As Pack Leader, you have my word."
"Is that enough?"
Even I felt the cut of Edward's words. I bit my lip. Sam opened his mouth, then closed it. He glared at Jake.
"It's all I have," Sam said. "Unless you want it writing?"
Edward cocked his head. "No. I don't think that'll be necessary. I'll accept your word, and I also want to go back to a point Seth made before, about Bella, and things being easier."
"Bella will always be welcome at La Push," Sam said. "Her relationship with you won't change that."
"Good." Edward said. "And I have your word on that, too?"
Edward nodded. "Then I guess you can accept my word, that there will be no repercussions from our side."
There was silence.
Sam frowned, rubbing his hand over his close-cropped hair, still unsettled. Meanwhile, Edward looked more than comfortable, like he'd settled in for a movie night.
"Who else knows the truth about us?"
"Just Charlie." Jacob spoke up quickly, surprising me.
"And you can be damn sure I won't be spreading it round," Charlie said.
Edward nodded and focused his attention back on Jacob, who kept his head down.
"Jacob, you said before that you didn't mean to do what you did." Edward tilted his head, trying to catch Jake's eye and not succeeding. "I'd like to know how it happened. What made you..."
"Er, I have something to say about that." Charlie spoke again, unfolding his arms and shoving his hands deep in his pockets. He shot Edward a faintly apologetic look. "I slipped up when I was visiting Billy this morning. Jake was there, and we were talking about Bella coming home and I mentioned you. Without meaning to." He shifted, changing his posture and clearing his throat again. "It caused...well, there was a reaction. A strong reaction. Stronger than I would have expected." He shot Jacob a quick look. "Billy tried to calm things, but I said I wasn't leaving until someone told me what was going on."
So Jacob's revelation hadn't been entirely intentional. I wondered briefly if that changed anything, and decided it didn't.
"He deserved to know." Jacob's voice interrupted my thoughts and I turned to find his intense brown eyes on me. "A father should know. A father has to protect..."
"You keep saying that!" I snapped and he looked away again, dropping his gaze back to the floor. "But you're not my father! When you've got your own kids...oh!" I gasped, jerking back in my seat while everyone stared at me. "Beth's pregnant, isn't she?"
The words fell from my lips as soon as the thought formed in my brain, and at the mention of his wife's name, Jake's head snapped up.
"She's...there's nothing...Beth has nothing to do with this!"
He looked a little panicked and I realised I'd said too much. I also realised I was right. So did everyone else, it seemed.
I'd obviously let a big cat out of the bag.
"Is that right?" Sam asked him, shock in his face and in his voice. Jacob groaned, his head falling back on his shoulders.
"She'll kill me," he said.
"It's true then!" Seth was grinning.
"No-one's supposed to know." Now Jacob bowed his head, cradling it in his hands. "It's real early, we only found out a couple of days ago and she made me promise, promise, not to tell anyone yet. Not even my dad."
The silence returned as everyone stared at him and his news began to sink in.
My friend was going to be a father.
I should be excited for him, but the sight of Edward having to spill his guts to Charlie was too recent, too raw.
"Well..." Seth rubbed a hand over his jaw. "Technically you didn't break your promise. Bella said it, not you. But hey, you're gonna be a dad!" He gave a shout, clapping Jacob on the back and congratulating him while Sam still looked slightly shell-shocked. Charlie had sat down in the armchair, surprise in his eyes and a faint, unsure smile on his lips.
Beside me, Edward was nodding. "Well picked," he whispered to me.
"It just kinda clicked, all of a sudden," I whispered back. "But I shouldn't have said anything out loud." In a small way, I felt like I'd just done to Jake what he'd done to Edward and me.
Edward shrugged. "I wouldn't worry," he said. "But it all makes sense now. The wolf's protective instinct has kicked in."
I looked from him to Jacob who was now mid-embrace with an excited Seth while Charlie and Sam watched on.
"He's worried you'd hurt Beth?"
"Oh, I'm sure he knew intellectually that I wouldn't," Edward said quietly. "But his more primal instincts took over. He wouldn't want a vampire anywhere near his wife and unborn child. Is he the first of the pack to have kids?"
"Yeah, he is. So you're saying all should be forgiven now? Just like that?"
"I think it's more that all is understood," Edward said.
Across the room, Sam was offering Jacob his congratulations now, though with more restrained enthusiasm than Seth.
"This explains a lot," he said, smiling wryly as he stood up. "Like why you defied my orders about coming here. And why you chose to break the treaty in the first place."
Jacob had been smiling, but at Sam's words his brow furrowed before a look of deep shock crossed his features. Like he'd just taken a sharp blow. His mouth fell open with a gasp. In a corner of my mind I heard the echo of a conversation from long ago, and I gasped softly, too.
Then Jacob stood slowly, saying nothing, but he squared his shoulders, standing taller, it seemed. Standing stronger. Seth watched on, his face a match for Charlie's – both of them confused and frowning.
"We'll work this out back at the Res," Sam said quickly, then turned to Edward. "We done here?"
Edward was also looking confused, his eyes narrowed, speculative. I squeezed his hand, hoping to convey that he should just let this go for now and I'd explain later.
Before Edward could respond, Jacob stepped forward.
"Sam gave you his word before, now I give you mine."
Edward nodded slowly. "Thank you," he said. Then he glanced at Sam. "We're done here."
Sam dipped his head in acknowledgement, but it seemed Jake hadn't finished yet. His voice was steady and firm as he faced me. This was not the man I'd seen in the back yard earlier. It wasn't the man of even ten minutes ago. This was someone different and he radiated a new maturity, and a calm authority.
"Bella, I hope we can work this out. Be friends again." He looked at Edward, who was standing too now, and then at Charlie, before turning back to me. "I am sorry for what I've done."
There was no chance for me to reply because suddenly the wolves were walking out of the room, through the kitchen and out the back door towards the woods. I could hear Seth's voice asking what the hell was going on, as they went.
I sank deeper into the sofa, my head spinning.
"What just happened?" Charlie asked.
"That's what I'm wondering," Edward said.
Both of them were looking at me as I let go a long breath. "I think Jacob Black just claimed his birthright as Alpha."
Edward sat down beside me again and Charlie edged forward on the chair, both of them staring at me expectantly. Like a couple of kids waiting for story time to begin.
"Just give me a sec," I said, pushing my hair back behind my ears as I gathered my thoughts and wondered where to begin.
"Okay," I said, settling into my role. "So the wolves have to follow any order given by their leader, the Alpha wolf, even if they disagree with it. Jake told me once, it's like a compulsion, they can't refuse, unless they're a true Alpha."
"And that's what happened here?" Charlie asked and I nodded.
"Yeah, I think so. Sam's only the Alpha by default because he was the first person to phase. Jake is actually the true Alpha because he's Ephraim Black's heir. Genetically, it's his birthright."
"But he didn't want to be the leader?"
I shook my head. "He was only seventeen when he joined the pack and he didn't want the responsibility. Sam had been waiting for him to phase, expecting him to take over, but when it happened Jake said no. He insisted Sam should stay in charge." I shrugged. "I guess the responsibility of fatherhood hasn't just tripped Jake's primal instincts, it's brought out the Alpha as well."
"Looks like it," Edward mused. "It's kind of fascinating really, but he needs to get those instincts under control."
Charlie was shaking his head, muttering things I probably didn't want to hear. "So Sam has to step down now?" he said after a moment. "Is that how it works?"
"I don't know. I don't know what happens now, but that's something for them to sort out." I sighed. "Right now, I need a coffee."
"I need something stronger," Charlie declared. "Like I said before, it's been a helluva day." He stood up and headed for the kitchen. He called over his shoulder as he went, "Can I get you a beer, Edward?"
My old room hadn't changed much since I was seventeen. Same quilt. Same curtains. Except for when I've been living overseas, I usually visited three or four times a year for long weekends, so Charlie had made a point of keeping things always ready for me.
But tonight, the room did feel different.
I sat on the bed, in the soft glow of lamplight, staring out the window while I listened to Edward running the water in the bathroom. It was such a turnaround from the days when he'd wait for me, sitting on the bed just like this, while I brushed my teeth or took a shower.
The window was open a crack letting in the cold night air as it softly moved the curtains. A faint shiver ran through me but I left things as they were. Instead, I sat back against the headboard, pulling my knees up to my chin, hugging them to my chest.
The past. The present. It was all coming together in one of the longest days I could remember.
I listened to my father's soft snores coming from the next room, competing with the sound of the shower across the hall. Normal sounds of domestic, human life. But it felt strange, after a past of lies and deception, and empty years, to have Edward here, and everything out in the open with Charlie. And with the wolves.
I shook my head, not wanting to revisit what had happened with Jake and Sam. After they'd left, Charlie, Edward, and I had re-hashed it all, gone over it, posed theories on what might happen, and right now, I was done with it. I was all wolfed-out, although, watching my Dad and Edward share a beer and conversation had been pretty amazing.
The door opened and Edward came in, wearing the loose sleep pants and the Snoopy t-shirt he sometimes wore to bed. His hair was dripping from the shower, making spots on the fabric across his shoulders. He looked gorgeous and if I wasn't so tired I would have jumped him then and there.
"You look sleepy," he said and I answered with a yawn as I slid further down the bed and patted the mattress beside me.
Edward smiled and shook his head.
"I've got the sofa bed downstairs, remember?"
"You're not serious?"
"Your father was clear about the sleeping arrangements when you first told him I was coming..."
"Yeah but that was then and I think after today, you staying in my room would be way down on his list of scandals."
"Even so..." He sat down on the end of the bed so clearly he wasn't in a hurry to go anywhere. "It's a twin."
"We managed before. You didn't seem to mind snuggling up close back then."
His lips twitched. "True. We did manage. But you could probably use a good night's sleep."
"We both could. And I sleep better with you."
"Me too." He wrinkled his nose at me, then ran his hand over the quilt, his eyes following the path of his hand across the squares of fabric.
"How does it feel?" I asked. "Being back here?"
"Lots of memories," he said quietly. "Some very special memories."
The corners of his lips twitched with cheeky smile.
"Like...the first time I heard you say you loved me." He stretched out a little on the bed, propped up on an elbow. "I was over there, where the rocking chair used to be." He nodded to shadowy corner of the room. "Your room was a mess. I wanted to read the titles of your books. I wanted to know your music. I knew I loved you, but then, you said you loved me. That changed my world forever. That moment..." He stopped and bit his lip. "That moment brought us to here, now."
It was beautiful, hearing the wonder in his voice, hearing the love shine in his words.
"I wish I'd been awake to be part of it," I whispered and he laughed.
"It wouldn't have been the same," he said, and tapped my nose with his finger. He inhaled deeply, his chest expanding with the breath, and then sighed. "And then there was that first night I stayed with you."
"That was some night. And I was awake for most of it."
"He smirked. "My first kiss just hours earlier, and then you basically asked me if we could ever have sex."
"You would remember that, wouldn't you? Were you scandalised?"
"Completely." He smiled, but then the smile faded. "Of course, there are other memories," he said, dropping his gaze. "Bella, I know it's been a big day but there's something I should tell you. Or give back to you."
"Give back to me?"
He lifted his eyes and my heart tightened.
"What?" I whispered.
He didn't answer, but instead got off the bed and went to stand by the window. He tapped at the floor with his foot, brow softly furrowed.
"I think it's this one," he whispered. "Your birthday gifts are under the floorboard."
It took a second for his words to register, and when they did, my mouth fell open.
"I knew it was childish," he went on. "Especially after I'd promised you no reminders, but I wanted to leave some part of me here. With you." He shrugged. "I thought I should tell you. I'll prise the board up and get them out, if you want."
This new piece of information kind of coasted over the surface of my mind, like my brain was too full to take in anything more. Edward was expectant, watching for my reaction.
"I can listen to my lullaby?"
"Er, not exactly, no." He winced. "The CD's broken. From memory, it's in about a dozen pieces." He exhaled sharply. "It was an accident, I didn't mean to break it but my hand was shaking so much when I..."
He stopped talking, and I sucked in a long slow breath as I thought of how he must have felt, that September afternoon, as he'd prepared to leave me while still loving me. I'd never really let my mind go down that path, and I stopped it in it's tracks now.
"You know what?" I said, reaching for him, catching his hand with mine. "Lets leave everything where it is. The plane tickets are way past their use-by date. The CD can't be played..."
"The photos are there, too. The ones from your album."
I swallowed, my throat thickening as I remembered those images where his eyes were so reserved and cold. Dead eyes that hid his pain.
I gave his hand a squeeze.
"That's okay. They're safe where they are and I know where to come if I ever want to look at them."
Understanding flickered in his face, the taut lines round his eyes softened, and he leant down, placing the gentlest of kisses on my forehead.
"I love you," he whispered.
I tugged him back onto the bed beside me, reached for my phone, and held it up above us, ready to snapshot some new memories.
He laughed when we looked at the image.
"Where's the top of your head? And my chin?"
"I'm not the selfie expert, okay."
"Clearly."He took my phone, held it up, pressed his lips to my cheek, and took the photo.
"Half my face is missing!"
"At least the half that's there has a forehead."
"I thought you were supposed to be good at this." I swatted him playfully and he kissed me again.
"Stay," I said. "If Charlie catches us, he can ground me. Unless you climb out the window in time, like you used to. And then climb back in again when it's safe, of course." I winked and Edward chuckled.
"I think my days of exiting and entering through windows are behind me, Bella."
"Oh, I don't know, I'm sure you could manage." I smiled. "I remember, I'd walk into my room and you'd be there, framed by the window, sitting on the sill. All cool and mysterious. They're great memories."
In the soft lamp light, I watched his eyes soften. He moved slowly, smoothly, towards the window, and used two fingers to open it wider. My heart picked up, a rapid double-beat of anticipation and memory. The curtain blew in, Edward bent his head, making to sit on the sill and...crack!
"Oh! Oh! Are you okay?"
Clutching his head, Edward stumbled away from the window and dropped onto the bed.
"Let me see! Let me see!" I shuffled close, raised up on my knees and ran my fingers through his thick copper hair.
"There's no blood. But I think you're going to have a bump." I sat back on my haunches as he rubbed at his head. "Want some Tylenol?"
"I'll be fine."
I ignored him and scrambled off the bed, headed for the bathroom and returned a second later with a glass of water and two tablets. Edward was still sitting on the bed where I'd left him, but the window was closed now.
"And obviously my cool and mysterious days are behind me too," he said with a wry smile.
I giggled. "I still love you."
His smile widened. "I know."
I set the tablets and the water on the bedside table. "In case you change your mind," I said.
We laid down together and Edward pulled the quilt up over us. He reached over to turn off the lamp, then curled himself around me, pulling my back against his chest. His fingers closed gently round my breast, his thumb softly stroking my skin. As I watched the pale moon through the window, I nestled closer to Edward, wriggling backwards, closer against him, and felt the day's tension begin to truly leave me.
"How do you feel, knowing that Charlie knows?"
His hand stilled, and then dropped away from my breast. "We're going to talk about your father right now?"
I giggled softly. "It's just one question."
"Mm. Relieved, I think. Especially as he took everything so well."
"I'm sorry he interrogated you like that."
"I was expecting it," he said. "There were no surprises there."
"You were very honest with him. There were some things I was hoping you'd lie about."
"You're talking about my vigilante days?"
I nodded. "Yeah."
"I was never going to lie," he said softly. "Charlie's smarter than that. In the past there were times I almost thought he might have worked me out, but once he knew the truth there was no point trying to lie about anything. He would have seen through it. Full disclosure was the only way forward." He hooked his leg over mine and nuzzled my neck with his nose. "It was a risk, I'll admit, but when you told him about Port Angeles, I think that made all the difference." He stilled then and I felt a faint tension in his body. "Did it bother you?" he asked. "The number?"
I was glad he couldn't see my grimace in the dark.
"You tried to hide it, but I could see the shock in your face."
I turned in his arms, facing him now, watching his worried features in the soft moonlight.
"I was kinda shocked, yeah. I'd never thought about numbers but..."
"You didn't think it would be that high."
"No. I didn't." I touched his cheek. "I didn't realise you'd saved so many lives."
His smile came slowly, softly. I smiled back.
"And now I want to know, what did you and Charlie talk about when you banished me from the room?"
"Ah. That." He grinned and rolled onto his back, folding his arms behind his head. "I'm surprised it took you so long to ask." He turned his face to look at me. "He asked me my intentions towards you. Very predictable. Very human."
I rested my chin on his chest. "What did you tell him?"
He tilted his head to look at me. "That I was here for the long-haul. That I was a gainfully employed engineer with a significant investment portfolio so there was never any question of not being able to provide properly for you. And then I told him I loved you more than my own life. I don't think he'll be surprised when we tell him our news."
I nodded, and blew a breath across his chest, delighting in the subtle lip bite that was his reaction.
"You know, Edward, I can provide for myself."
"I know," he said.
He rolled onto his side, kissed my neck, lips grazing down to my shoulder, nudging aside the neck of my pyjama top.
"I called Carlisle and Emmett while I was in the bathroom," he murmured. "Updated them."
We'd initially contacted the Cullens and the McCartys by conference call during our drive to Forks from Port Angeles. They'd been shocked by the news that Jacob had broken the treaty, but had given Edward the go-ahead to handle the situation however he thought best. Carlisle had offered to drop everything and come, if it would help. Edward had told him he hoped it wouldn't come to that.
"And?" I asked. "What did they say?"
"They're good. There's no concern about further exposure." He nibbled on my shoulder. "Rose said I can make it very clear that she won't be in any hurry to make a return to Forks. Ever."
"I can imagine her saying that, but maybe with different words."
"I cleaned it up a bit. And Carlisle is curious about the wolf hierarchy now."
I smiled. "Of course he is."
"And they're pleased Charlie took things as well as he did. Carlisle's happy to discuss anything with him, if it will help. Emmett's also offered to answer any questions he might have."
"Actually, Emmett's perspective on things would probably be a good one to get. He could make anything seem, um, less scary. You know what I mean."
"Although, knowing my Dad, I think he's probably asked all his questions. He probably doesn't want to know more than he already does." I snuggled closer. "Should we tell him tomorrow? That we're engaged?"
"Yeah, we should. Bella?"
"That was all way more than one question. Have we finished talking about our families?"
I didn't answer, but trailed my fingers down his chest, my nails grazing his skin. Edward hissed, his hips rocking subtly.
"So Edward, that night, all those years ago, when I asked if we would ever have sex?"
"Did you ever imagine it back then? In this bed?"
"I tried not to."
"Oh?" I smiled, my hand inching lower, watching his eyes close as he bit hard into his bottom lip. "But the idea was there? You wanted me?"
"I think, from memory, I told you I wasn't human but I was a man." He opened his eyes and even in the darkness I could see the brightness that shone there. He touched my cheek, kissed me, and then we were naked – my pj's were on the floor and Snoopy was covering the lamp, and I wondered if he'd stop things because we were in Charlie's house but then he was lifting me above him, and I was guiding him inside me as I straddled his hips.
It was so quiet. Just the sound of the wind outside as we held onto each other, eyes never wavering from each other's gaze as his hips met mine, over and over, his body moving in a slow, savouring rhythm that said how he adored me, that he was mine, and this was a long time coming.
He was silent when he came. His fingers dug hard into my hips, holding me still, his lips parted in a soundless gasp as he shuddered beneath me, inside me. When I collapsed beside him, panting and spent, he curled round me, and pressed kisses against my neck.
"Yes," he whispered against my skin. "I wanted you."
I woke to the sound of rain, and pale, pearly morning light. For a moment I wondered where I was. It looked like my old bedroom window, the familiar curtains dancing swaying slightly in the breeze. Shouldn't I be in the beach house? No, the hotel in Chicago?
I sat up as memories of the day before came crashing back.
The wolves. Revelations and confessions.
And then last night, with Edward.
He'd made love to me here, in my old room.
I giggled now and sank back against the pillows, hugging myself, remembering. I was alone, but the door was open a crack and I could hear voices coming from downstairs. It was a good guess Edward had got up early to take his place in the sofa bed, before Charlie came down. But now a faint anxiety began to creep over me as I wondered if Charlie would still be as accepting today, as he was yesterday. Maybe, in the light of a new morning, he'd feel differently.
It had meant so much to see my Dad and Edward having a beer together. It had meant so much that the three of us had sat together after the wolves left, talking about what had happened between Jake and Sam, and what it might mean. It had felt like a united front. And when Charlie had called Sue to bring her up to date, he'd come back and told us she said "hi" and she'd love to come visit, and meet Edward, the next day.
I hoped that would still happen.
With a deep breath, I tossed back the covers, got dressed, and went downstairs, ready to greet whatever today had in store.
I'd been right about the sofa bed. It was open and well-rumpled, almost too rumpled. He must have thrown himself on it and rolled around like a pig in mud, to get that effect.
"Sleep well?" I asked as I walked into the kitchen. "Looks like you were restless." I arched a brow, and Edward smirked.
"I slept very well, thanks." He stood up from the table, smiling, and pulling out a chair for me. "You?"
Over at the stove, Charlie was cooking bacon and eggs.
"Edward and I were just talking about baseball," Charlie said. "Did you know he's seen Babe Ruth play? And Lou Gherig?"
"Er, no. I didn't know that."
Edward grinned, and gave me a quick wink.
"We got talking about the best games we'd seen," he explained. "Ruth's 1932 season was a stand-out."
"Oh. Well, that's great."
Edward nodded eagerly and that anxiety that had been gnawing at me, disappeared. Charlie was still good.
"And we've been talking about fishing," Charlie went on. "Apparently there are some good spots in Australia I should try."
"Oh, yes!" I was grinning too now. "Yeah, you'll have to come some time, Dad. You'd really like it."
"Maybe for the wedding?" Charlie turned round, pan in hand, and slid bacon slices and two eggs onto a plate, and pushed it across to Edward whose shock seemed to mirror my own.
"You thought I hadn't noticed that ring on your finger when you arrived here?" Charlie asked with a resigned smile. "I don't know a lot about jewellery, but that stone's more than just some accessory. I figured after yesterday you might be scared about telling me, so I thought I'd make it easy for you. If it's my approval you're worried about, then don't. You have it. Not that you need it. So, am I right?"
He looked from me to Edward. For a moment there was silence, and then Edward stood, shoulders squared.
"This wasn't how we planned to tell you, but yes, Bella and I are getting married. And it means a lot that we have your blessing."
Charlie waved away Edward's words.
"As long as you're happy, Bella."
"I...I am. Very happy."
"Then that's all I want." He sighed and then came to give me one of his one-armed hugs, before shaking Edward's hand. "Congratulations," he said. "Does your mother know?"
"Um, yeah. She's happy for us. Oh, but she doesn't know about Edward. About...you know..."
"And I won't be telling her," Charlie said. "So, you got a wedding date? A place?"
"Not yet. Lots of options. Chicago. Florida. Sydney."
"Well, just let me know. We could always put up a marquee in the yard, if you want." He cleared his throat. "You want some eggs, Bells? You like 'em scrambled, right?"
"Scrambled would be great, thanks Dad."
Edward sat down, took my hand, and gave me a bemused smile. I smiled back and then watched as Charlie cracked a couple of eggs into a fresh pan.
"So Edward," he asked as he added a splash of milk. "Ever meet Elvis?"
A/N: Next chapter, we visit the old Cullen house, the meadow, and Bella runs into an old "friend".
The continued support I've received for this story, even through the delays, is incredible and means so much to me. Thank you all so much. The past year has had some ups and downs for me and it's meant that sometimes writing has had to take a back seat, but the story will definitely be finished. There's not much more left now, although every time I think I'm tying things up, Edward or Bella want to take things in a slightly different direction, so I just have to follow, lol.
This chapter was partly written through a haze of flu and pharangytis. I hope it's turned out okay. Any mistakes, or if something doesn't make sense, please let me know.
I hope the New Year has started well for you all, and again, thank you so much xx