A/N Thank you for being patient. Also, Midnight Cougar is the reason I'm still on FF. I don't know what I'd do without her.
Knowing is not as good as loving; Loving is not as good as enjoying. – Chinese Proverb
Edward gave me a bemused look. "You mean to tell me this is it? You're never getting the transfer? This is your boss's final decision?"
"I'm afraid so," I answered quietly, facing him on the couch, my hand firmly clasped around his. "I mean… I haven't insisted on it since he told me, but that's only because I know he doesn't make decisions of this caliber lightly. He's had time to think it through."
The news seemed to hit him pretty hard. Breaking his gaze away from mine, he got up, heading for the balcony once again. He grasped the railing, inhaling deeply.
With a sigh, I followed, wrapping my arms around his torso when I reached him. "I'm sorry," I murmured, pressing my cheek against his cool skin. "I don't know how to fix this or even if I can. Aro said he wasn't sending me because I'm his right hand and he needs me here, in Chicago, with him."
"Shit," he cursed under his breath, hanging his head in defeat. "This is not what I expected. I really thought he was going to give you London. I hoped ─ " He stopped short, letting out a bitter laugh. "Sometimes I'm incredibly naïve for a grown ass man."
"Please don't say that, Edward." I pulled on his sides to make him turn to me. His green eyes regarded me, apprehensive. "I could try to tell Aro about you… explain our situation. Maybe he'll change his mind if he knows what it means to me."
Edward shook his head, voicing what we were both thinking. "I doubt that he will at this stage. Isn't the project supposed to take off in a month?"
"Yes, but I can at least try," I insisted.
"Isabella, your boss is a businessman thinking strictly in terms of the company's best interest. He won't make decisions based on your current love life."
I frowned at his sudden burst of negativity. "I know that. I also know that he values me greatly as an employee. Maybe ─ just maybe ─ he'll take into account what I want."
"Maybe," he parroted, the lone word sounding hollow falling from his lips.
"I don't know what else to do," I admitted, caressing his cheek and feeling the roughness of his beard. "I can't just up and quit my job. I love my job, Edward. I'm good at it. And Aro… he's everything I could hope for in a boss. We work so well together."
"I would never ask you to quit your job," he responded quietly.
"I know you would never ask that of me, and I am grateful for your support. However, if I can't get Aro to change his mind about sending me away, what other option is there but for one of us to have to make a drastic change. How else could we give our relationship a standing chance? We live almost seven thousand miles apart. We wouldn't even last one year."
Edward gave me a look that told me he wasn't pleased with the grim outcome I'd laid out. "Don't say that."
I sighed, shaking my head. "I like to think I'm a realist, Edward."
"I love that about you," he murmured, placing his warm hand on my waist. "But please, let's not jinx this before it's even begun. Talk to your boss. If there is absolutely no way you can convince him, we'll make a plan B."
I nodded; relieved we were getting on common ground. "Plan B sounds reasonable."
"Good." He exhaled a deep breath, trying to put on a brave face. "Now, how about that pasta? I'm a bit hungry."
Smiling, I gave his hand an affectionate squeeze.
"Thank you," I whispered, hoping he could see the gratitude in my eyes.
"Fuck." His hot breath fanned against my ear, sending shivers down my spine.
I moaned in response, pushing my ass against his groin.
A few thrusts later, he came with a loud groan, bringing me over the edge with him.
We lay in bed, spent, both on our backs, staring at the white ceiling.
Edward turned onto his side to face me, his hand caressing my chest, alternating from one breast to the other.
"You have fantastic breasts," he whispered in my ear in the most sinful voice, tweaking the nipples until they pebbled.
I smiled at the compliment, facing him on my side so that our noses were touching. "Thank you. You have a great body yourself."
"Oh, well." He grinned devilishly, tickling the small hollow between my hips and my ribs. "I do my best."
I swatted at his hand and let out a soft chuckle. Then, my smile fell as my mind began to wander.
"Are you going to see your parents tomorrow?" I asked, remembering our earlier conversation. He'd decided to spend Easter Day with me, but it seemed inevitable that he'd visit with them in the following days.
"Yes," he answered, his expression becoming more serious. "Are you coming?"
"I don't know," I admitted softly. "Do you really think that I should?"
"Yeah, I really do." He kissed the tip of my nose, pulling back slightly to look me in the eye. "Although, I wouldn't want you to feel pressured to come with me. I want you to come, but I want it to be your decision."
"All right." I sighed. "I'll think about it until tomorrow."
"Good." He smiled, accepting my answer with a sense of calm that put my nerves at ease somewhat. Sitting up, he stretched his arms over his head, then scratched the nape of his neck. "I think I'm going to take a shower."
"Okay." I watched his lean form as he climbed out of bed and headed towards the bathroom. "Do you want to watch a movie afterwards?"
"Sure." He gave me a sexy smirk, noticing the way my eyes traveled over his naked body. "Your pick."
While Edward took his shower, I busied myself with making the bed and picking up our clothes off the floor. His T-shirt smelled of him, and I inhaled deeply, taking in the intoxicating scent. I shrugged it on, smiling at my reflection in the mirror. Wearing his clothes that were too big on me made me feel incredibly comfortable.
My cell phone rang, distracting me. I walked over to the nightstand and picked it up, seeing Alice's name on the display.
"Hey, Al," I greeted, wondering why she was calling so late on Easter Sunday.
"Hello, Boss," she replied teasingly.
I rolled my eyes, even though she couldn't see me. "Is there a reason you're calling at seven-thirty in the evening on Easter Sunday?"
"Why yes, of course there is. I'm guessing you're home. Alone."
"I am home," I confirmed, trying to ignore the last statement.
"I was thinking you'd like to come over. Jasper's parents bailed on dinner tonight, so it's just the two of us."
Usually, her offer would've made me feel like a charity case. Not tonight, though.
"Actually… I'm not alone. Edward is here."
"Oh," she breathed, getting excited. "That's great! That means you guys are okay?"
I smiled. "Yeah, we are."
"I'm so glad, Bella. I really am."
"Thanks, Al. I am, too."
"Now you can both come over. Jasper is going to be so happy! Hey, Jaz!" she yelled, making me put some distance between my ear and the phone.
"Whoa, take it easy." I chuckled as she rattled off the news to Jasper. "I haven't asked Edward yet."
"Ask me what?"
I turned around and saw that he was standing just outside the bathroom door, looking at me expectantly. He had a towel wrapped around his hips, droplets of water still sliding down his chest. He used a smaller towel to dry his hair and raised his eyebrows at me, waiting for an answer.
"Alice is on the phone," I said, making sure she was hearing as well. "She asked if we wanted to drop by their place. Apparently, Jasper is excited you're back in town."
Edward smiled. "Great. I'm in, if you are."
"I heard that!" Alice exclaimed. "He wants to come. You can't say no now."
I shook my head and sighed. "We'll be there in less than an hour."
As I hung up, Edward closed the distance between us, leaning down to give me a brief kiss. "The bathroom is all yours."
"Thanks." I raised my head, giving him another kiss, walking over to the dresser. Doing a quick scan, I pulled out a pair of dark jeans and a white silk blouse. "I'll be ready in no time."
When I exited the bathroom thirty minutes later, Edward was lying on the bed, already dressed. He was zapping through channels, one of his arms tucked under his head for support.
"Ready?" he asked, turning off the TV and standing.
"Yeah, let me just grab my purse."
Picking up my black blazer from the back of an armchair, I tossed my phone into my purse and took Edward's proffered hand. We headed out of the apartment and towards the garage where my Mercedes was waiting.
Edward started chuckling when we reached my car, running his palm along the hood. "Good memories, eh?" He looked at me with amusement coloring his green eyes.
I shook my head, but couldn't help my smile. "Do you want to drive?" I asked, tossing him the keys before he had a chance to answer.
He caught the keys mid-air and grinned. "If you insist."
I walked over to the passenger side, and he rushed to open my door for me.
"Such a gentleman," I teased. "Thank you."
Edward kissed my hair in return, slapping my ass. "Am I?" he asked, taking a step back and starting to laugh when I took a swing at him and missed.
The drive to Alice and Jasper's apartment was filled with small chat and laughter. I honestly couldn't remember the last time I'd felt so happy and carefree. He kissed me after parking the car, then again in the elevator, barely pulling away in time before the doors opened on the third floor where a bunch of teenagers were waiting.
We passed them holding hands, and I let out a small chuckle as they gave us curious looks.
Alice flung open the door on the first knock, grinning widely when her eyes landed on us. "Hey, guys. Come on in."
"Nice to see you again, Alice," Edward said, stepping in behind me.
"You too, Edward." She turned her head, calling her boyfriend. "Jaz, they're here!"
A moment later, Jasper came down the hallway from the kitchen. He was holding a bottle of wine.
"Edward, man." He walked over to his old friend, giving him a one-arm hug. "Long time no talk."
Edward smiled and nodded in agreement. "Yeah, it's good to see you."
"Did you guys eat?" Alice wanted to know. "I made some roast."
"We've had dinner, yes," I said, following her into the living room. "But I won't say no to a glass of that white wine."
"How's London?" Jasper looked to Edward, grabbing a glass from the coffee table and pouring.
Edward sat on the couch beside me, draping his arm around my shoulders. "London's great. I'm heading towards a raise, so work-wise everything is going in the right direction."
It didn't escape anyone's notice he was only referring to his professional life.
"But you like it there," Jasper insisted, handing me the glass.
I accepted it with a soft "thanks," waiting for Edward's answer with interest.
"Yeah, I do. The city is nice, lots to do, and I've made some friends." He looked at me then, his eyes fixing on me intently. "But Chicago seems more appealing."
I felt a knot forming in my throat at his words. Was he thinking about giving up everything he'd achieved in London for the sake of our relationship?
I couldn't fathom the thought. I didn't want to think he'd make such a sacrifice.
If Alice and Jasper caught on to Edward's meaning they showed no sign.
"I dig the beard, though." Jasper changed the subject, offering Edward a glass of wine.
Edward chuckled, running his fingers over it. "Yeah, well, my mother thinks it's unbecoming of me to grow one."
Jasper laughed, joining Alice on the loveseat facing us. "I thought so. How are they, your parents?"
"They're good. Dad's been having some health issues with his high blood pressure, but other than that, everything is all right with them." He paused, taking a sip of wine. "Yours? How come they're missing Easter dinner with their favorite kid?"
I listened, realizing I knew next to nothing about Edward's family.
"Grandpa and his new wife decided to drop in uninvited, so they had to cancel."
Edward laughed. "New wife, huh?"
Jasper rolled his eyes. "Sixth one, I should mention. I don't know what the hell is going on in that head of his. It's not like he can get it up anymore."
I choked on my wine, and the men laughed at my reaction.
Edward patted my back gently. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sorry. I just had no idea your grandfather was such a player, Jasper."
Alice rolled her eyes. "You really have no idea."
"My grandfather never re-married, you know?" Edward seemed to be talking to everyone, but his eyes were on me. "Grandma has been dead for twenty years and he never married again."
"Why?" I asked, my voice quiet.
"He loved her too much, I guess." He toyed with my hair, smiling.
A strange fire ignited inside me at his words.
Could I have been lucky enough to find someone to love me as much as Edward's grandfather loved his wife?
"You guys look so cute together," Alice commented, pulling me out of my thoughts.
"Uh, thanks?" I replied, watching her grin at me widely.
"I'm not even joking," she insisted. "You look like the perfect match."
"Alice told me how you two met," Jasper intervened. "That's got to be the best man-meets-woman story I ever heard."
Edward chuckled. "It's going to be a cool story to tell the kids."
I could see Alice raise her eyebrows at the mention of children.
Edward must have noticed because he began to back pedal. "I'm kidding. We're not thinking that far into the future."
"Why not?" She pressed the issue.
"Al," I warned her.
"What?" She gave me an innocent look.
"Let's just say we have other things on our minds to deal with right now, all right?" I said sternly.
She seemed to understand it was neither the time nor the place for such conversation.
"On another note..." She jumped from the loveseat. "I bought the best cake in town. I'm telling you Bella, it's to die for."
She went on to get the cake from the kitchen, and Jasper laughed at her enthusiasm.
I could feel Edward's eyes on me and turned my head to meet them.
There seemed to be a question there, hiding behind green curtains, but I knew it would have to wait until later to be asked... and answered.