There Goes My Life

Chapter Sixteen

The house was quiet, and Alice could hear the grandfather clock's ticking in the other room. She hadn't yet closed her mouth as she gawked at her big brother in shock and a bit of horror. It was official, he was not only a coward, but he really was a dumbass.

That simple revelation could've knocked her over her with a feather. If she was being honest with herself and only herself, Edward was her favorite person ever. Their twelve-year age gap never felt as large as the gap between her and Emmett. Emmett had been preparing for college when she had arrived.

While they managed to be close, Edward was the brother who had always made time and space for her. He never missed a single dance recital or gymnastic competition. He took the time to read what she was enjoying, so they had something to discuss over their family's weekly Sunday dinners.

He had spoiled her, and in return, she had grown up with a bad case of hero-worship for her elder sibling.

"What?" Edward asked gruffly, folding his arms over his chest self-consciously, breaking through her thoughts.

"You're daft," she insulted him with a shake of her head, "completely so," she added with a little smirk.

He frowned over the rim of his cup, "what?"

She straightened as she perched herself on the edge of her barstool, a bit of anger igniting in her gut. "I can't believe you said that." She said shortly, cutting her dark brown eyes to his.

"Said what," He shook his head and glanced over at his younger sister as if she was mental.

Her glare only intensified, "you-are-a-jackass. Bella's the only mother the twins have ever had."

Edward rubbed a hand over his face, finally getting to the root of his sister's upset with him, "Alice, it's a fact; a simple one. She isn't. It isn't right for any of us to lose sight of that." He hated admitting it aloud, it killed him. Holden's bubbly giggle of, 'Mama,' had thrown everything sideways.

Alice frowned across the counter, "you're an idiot. She's the only mother the twins have ever had. She dots on them, and Asher and Mia. She loves them..." she cut herself off before saying that Bella loved him. In the week she had spent with the Mason family, helping Bella manage the Mason children, she had studied their interaction with fascination and hope.

They were in love. Deeply so. So deep that neither of them could see it through the chaos of raising four children. They had built a family and became the best of friends. She had watched them laugh together, dance around the kitchen as they cooked. She had witnessed the smiles as they shared and overhead their conversations.

"Don't be an idiot; don't push her away." She placed a hand on her brother's wrist gently, keeping him in place so he wouldn't walk away. "Just a reminder; she needs you guys as much as you need her. Don't go controlling her future because it isn't what you have planned. Sometimes the best things in life are unplanned, messy, and complicated."

Edward grunted in acknowledgment, "are you happy?"

"Extremely so. I know you don't approve of my marriage, Edward. I'm not blind or stupid. I love Jasper, I do. Will it last forever and be the kind of love Mom and Dad have? I don't know. But I do, I love him." She stepped into Edward's personal space and hugged him. "Now, I'm going to go pack. I have an early flight tomorrow. Don't bother getting up; I've already ordered a Lyft."

He gave her an appreciative nod, as exhaustion tugged at him, "I'll miss you, little rabbit, and sleep well." He kissed her forehead before heading up the stairs to his room after a compulsory check of the locks.

"See you at Christmas," she called after him. "Oh, and Edward, that recommendation letter you're writing for your last nanny, don't give it to her."

Halfway up the stairs, he turned with a frown, "what, why?"

"She came by today to apologize to Bella. Not only for what she said about Asher but because one of her friends called her a whore."

His brow furrowed as anger burned through him, "what?"

"You heard me. Goodnight, Eddie."

He pinched the bridge of his nose and gritted his teeth as he climbed the rest of the stairs to his room.

The fall decorations around their home seemed to vanish in a blink as the house filled with Christmas joy just as their new Nanny arrived.

"Sylvia, she's great with the kids," Bella said as she dropped down next to Edward on the sofa, sipping a peppermint mocha. The older nanny had settled in with a grandma's kindness and orneriness that had even Asher melting like chocolate in her hand.

Edward tossed her a mischievous smirk, "so do you think it's Santa's magic that has Asher on his best behavior?"

"Undoubtedly," She chuckled. "I'm just happy he believes; I was worried," she admitted softly as her eyes misted over as she looked at the little boy curled up asleep in front of the tree, they had put up earlier. She doubted she would ever forget the look of wonder that had shined in his eyes tonight.

Edward nodded in agreement, and his heart jumped as he placed an arm around Bella and curled her into his side. Joy burned through him as she placed her head on his shoulder, and his heartbeat settled, contentment spreading through his body. "This is the first time I've had a tree as an adult."

"Really?" Bella twisted so they could see each other.

He let out a quiet sigh and confessed to her, "work, I got really caught up in work and my need to prove myself to everyone, my parents especially so. I had to prove to myself that I was worthy of their love."

Bella turned and caught his gaze as she placed a hand gently on his cheek, "you are, Edward, you are." She promised him. She smiled softly, and her eyes fell closed as Edward closed the distance between them and captured her lips. It was so soft she barely registered it at first.

The softness only lasted a second as his tongue swiped across her lip. She gasped as her eyes pulled open and caught his heated gaze. He gave her a shy grin as he laced his fingers into her hair and leaned her back onto the couch, his body covering hers. She smiled as his lips came down and pressed more firmly into hers.

Edward moaned quietly into her mouth as his hand slid up the back of her shirt.

"Bella?" Mia's frightened voice called from the top of the stairs. "Bella?"

Bella pulled her lips away from Edward as he stood and rubbed a hand over his face, "this shouldn't have happened," he stated with a regretful shake of his head.

"Edward," she sighed, moving to touch his arm.

He shook his head and took a quick step back, dodging her hand. "I've got her. It's late. Goodnight, Bella."

Edward turned and moved up the stairs, leaving Bella in the living room with tears in her eyes. He scooped up Mia and carried her to her room; the small girl clung to his shirt as he rocked her. Her sniffles slowly ceased as she drifted off to the sound of Edward's voice as he gently read to her.

He tucked her into bed and moved across the hall to his own room. He checked the baby monitors before changing into some pajama bottoms and crawling into bed, where he stared blankly up at his ceiling.

"What the fuck did I do?" He asked himself softly, a cold ball of fear dropping into his stomach. He had kissed her. He had crossed the strict line he had set. He frowned deeply; he had covered her body with his. Just how far would he have gone?

Would he have continued until the lust consumed them? Would he have tugged her up the stairs to his room and undressed her?

He groaned and smashed his closed.

Son of a bitch. He wanted another taste.

He almost sighed in relief as his phone dinged, "I'm available at six."

He tossed his phone to the other side of the bed and forced himself to sleep. He woke around four covered in sweat, his heart racing. "Fuck, fuck, fuck," he chanted as his eyes swept over the room as he sat up. He took a few calming breaths and rubbed at his eyes.

He stood and checked the monitors, half hoping either Braxton or Holden were awake in their cribs. He grunted as he saw the two of them sleeping peacefully. He tugged on a shirt and headed down to the kitchen, standing outside the door to the basement suite. He shook his head and turned and went into the garage.

He swiped the sweat off his forehead and hugged his punching bag as he caught his breath. His watch chimed, letting him know it was five-thirty; he headed into the house. He stopped in the bathroom to wash up before going into the kitchen. He started the coffee pot and put one of Sylvia's pre-made breakfast casseroles in the oven.

He took his cup up the stairs and showered and dressed. He was ready to walk out the door when Sylvia stepped into the house.

"Good morning, Mr. Cullen," she greeted him warmly, her smile melted, and her wrinkled face became filled with concern, "are you okay? Did you get enough sleep?" She asked, studying him.

His chuckle came out a bit bitter, "not nearly enough; I hope you don't mind, but I have to leave in just a moment."

She gave a shake of her head, "no, I think we'll manage just fine," she assured him, her Texan accent always thicker in the morning than the evenings, "Bella's always a wonderful help if I need a hand."

"Thank you, Sylvia, I appreciate everything you do for us, and that breakfast casserole you left us was the bomb," he complimented, as he forced himself to smile. Just because he was tired and upset doesn't mean he should treat his employees poorly.

She smiled, and he nodded and straightened his tie, "have a good day, and if you need anything, my phone is always on," he said.

He cut out the door as he heard Bella's door open. He climbed into his car and looked up, staring at Bella as she looked down on him. She shook her head as he put his car in reverse and pulled out of their driveway.

He parked in Branson's driveway and made his way up to his front door; he knocked briskly.

Branson swung the door open wide, "Hey, come in," he invited, his voice deeper from sleep. His hair was unmoussed and flopped over his eyes. He was wearing simple gray sweatpants and a basic white T-shirt, different from his usual attire. Edward lifted a brow.

"Breakfast?" He asked, leading Edward towards his kitchen.

Edward shook his head, "I take it you usually don't see patients this early. "

"Never before nine," he said, "but I figured you needed an ear, so." He gave a shrug, there weren't a lot of people he considered his friend, yet through the years Edward had become one of the few, "just know this is costing you extra," he teased, his tone light, hoping to help his client relax.

Edward subconsciously ran his hand through his hair and took a seat, he accepted his usual cup of tea. It was one of his favorites, peppermint with the barest hints of honey, he took a slow sip and let his eyes wander over Branson's kitchen. The older man didn't say anything as he started cooking.

"So," Branson prompted when Edward had remained quiet for far too long.

Edward ducked his head, "I kissed her," he blurted out, his tone tight with tension. Guilt slammed into his gut as he admitted what he had done.

Branson turned surprised, "you what?" He asked, trying to keep the amusement from his voice. He could tell by Edward's posture he was upset with himself.

Edward lifted his head, "I fucking kissed her, I kissed her like I've never kissed anyone. I felt, fuck, I felt, so damn much. I lost myself in her, the feel of her against me … had Mia not interrupted us, I don't know how far I would've gone."

"And by her, I assume you mean, Bella," Branson said lightly, turning back to the eggs and dishing them out. He plucked the toast from the toaster, dropping a slice onto each plate then passed Edward his share.

Edward scoffed, "yes," he cut into his egg and shoved a bite into his mouth. He avoided looking at his therapist, not wanting to see the disapproval bound to be on his face.

"And that's a problem?" Branson asked slowly, a touch of sarcasm lingering with his words. He poured his cup of coffee and settled across from Edward at the bar. He looked over the rim of his coffee cup and waited for his answer.

"Of course, I'm her employer, her boss; she's young, it's wrong," he rubbed his forehead, easing the ache that sprung between his eyes. He took another sip, and the peppermint soothed the soreness of his stomach.

Branson rubbed a hand over his mouth to conceal his smile, "she's more than all those things, how did she feel about the kiss?"

Edward froze for a second, he looked up, "I don't know," he admitted with a long sigh.

"I'm going to go out on a limb here and say you haven't discussed these events with her," Branson mused as he lathered his toast with cherry marmalade. He scratched the back of his neck as he studied his friend.

"No," Edward admitted, "I was hoping to avoid that."

Branson snorted, "Yeah, unfortunately, I'm not going to recommend you do that." They both stopped speaking as they finished their breakfast. Branson passed Edward a water bottle before leading him out to his back garden.

"I think you need to figure out what you want Edward and go for it," Branson spoke bluntly. "Your intentions are honorable, I admire them, but your good intentions could very well cause you both a lot of unnecessary pain."

Edward looked up startled by his words, "what do you mean?"

Branson opened his water bottle and took a swig as he thought over his next words carefully, "I think what you want for Bella might not be what she wants for herself." He said quietly. "She likes you, Edward," he reassured his friend. "But you need to figure out if you're ready to take those risks."

Edward's frown deepened, "she ..."

Branson shook his head, cutting him off, "no; stop making excuses Edward, it's not her that isn't ready, it's you. I think your using your morals as a shield, protecting yourself from getting hurt."

"That's not true," he rebuffed, crossing his arms. "I just don't want to rush her into making a commitment she might not be ready for. I come with a lot of baggage."

"She's aware of that, Edward, she helps you manage it," Branson said evenly, "and you don't have to rush into anything, but you do need to speak with her, about the kiss, about your feelings."

Edward let out a sigh and opened his own water, "I guess."

"And all those reasons why you think you can't have her, they're not really valid. Yes, you're her boss, but it's a position you made up. She doesn't work for your company or a Nanny service. Yes, you're a few years older but that's not the worst thing." He chuckled softly, "so try not to sabotage yourself and the future that could be. The kids adore her, she adores them, and your feelings … well, consider them too."

Edward was quiet for a long time as he let Branson's words soak in, "I'm not saying go propose to her, I'm just saying talk to her."

A snort of laughter fell from Edward, "I'll talk to her."

Author Note...

Thank you, Sunflower Fran, for beta'ing.

Thank you for reading and please leave a Review!

Hugs and love,

- Emily