You all had such great things to say about the last chapter! Thank you so much.


"It wasn't too bad." Edward sat at the small table in his parents' kitchen with the mug he'd just filled. "We had some good conversations, and they were friendly the whole time."

"So Maggie liked them?"

Edward nodded at his father and stirred his coffee. "She did. She recognized Charlie. They had an apple pie, which didn't hurt, and Renee is great with her. They raised a girl, so I suppose it was natural for them."

Esme leaned until she could see out the kitchen door. Satisfied that Maggie wasn't within hearing distance, she looked at Edward. "And how are they together? If they have issues after what happened to their boy, do those issues still rear their heads?"

"I think they're used to putting on a smile every day, but I can't say how they're actually doing when it's only the two of them alone."

Esme sighed and sat at the table next to Edward. "I can't quite fathom it."

He shook his head. "Believe me, I spent plenty of time thinking about what I would do if that was the outcome for Maggie, and you wouldn't have been pleased with any of my choices. I can't blame them for doing the best they could, I just wish it'd been easier for Bella. They don't seem like a couple on the verge of a divorce, either, so it's possible things have improved."

"They take their vows seriously," Carlisle said. "Or so it seems."

"It takes work." Esme covered Carlisle's hand with her own. "I see Renee all the time at the hospital, and she's always warm with her employees."

"By all appearances, they're great people. All I need to know is whether they'll be good to Maggie. I believe they will, regardless of what might happen to them in the long term."

"I agree." Carlisle kissed Esme on the cheek as he got up and topped off his coffee.

"So," Esme began. "Maggie has mentioned that she wants Bella to stay in her life."

"She said that?" Edward asked, dubious that his daughter would use that phrasing.

She inclined her head. "Not in those exact words. It was more like wanting assurance that Bella will always come over and visit."

Edward hummed. "You saw the painting she did at school with Bella as part of the family. She loves her, and Bella reciprocates those feelings."

"Meaning there's nothing standing in the way of you and Bella being together." There was nothing but ticking silence as Edward stared at his mother.

Finally, he sighed. "Nothing but my own issues, Mom."

"You're going back to therapy today, aren't you?"

Edward stood and took his mug to the sink. "Yes, and I'll be sure to ask him what sort of timeline you can expect for a wedding and future grandchildren."

"Edward." It was a mild reproach, but Edward turned to face his father with frustration bubbling under his skin.

"What? That's what she's getting at, isn't it? When will Edward get his head out of the sand? I've made progress; isn't that enough?"

"Yes, it's enough." Esme rose and crossed the room to rest her hand on his forearm. "I didn't mean to imply you haven't made much progress. I want you and Maggie happy, that's all. Bella makes you both happy."

"Yes, she does. That doesn't mean I'm ready to propose after one date."

Esme nodded and dropped her hand. "I have to go to work."

"Mom," he said as she started to walk away. When she turned back, he sighed. "Thank you."

She gave him a small smile and left the room.

"I can see how you both feel," Carlisle said. "She wants you to be happy, and you don't want to be pressured."

"Pretty much."

"Well." Carlisle began loading the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher.

"Well, what?"

"Nothing."

Edward narrowed his eyes. "You're taking her side."

"I didn't say that."

"I'm happy, Dad. Can we just leave it at that?"

"Absolutely."

Edward very nearly groaned, but Maggie came into the kitchen and distracted him.

It wasn't until much later that he rolled his mother's words around in his head. After putting Maggie on the bus and seeing his therapist, Edward was finally able to begin working. Emmett and Makenna were already there; Edward joined his brother on their latest project.

He figured he'd better start with pleasantries. "How's Rose doing?"

Emmett didn't answer right away. "She's not good. It's going to take time for her to move on from Angela's betrayal."

"I thought she seemed too calm when I told her."

Emmett wiped his brow on his sleeve. "She took some time to process what you told her, and now she's spitting mad."

"I wouldn't be surprised if she broke a few things." Edward got them both water bottles and leaned against the nearest sawhorse.

"There might have been a few things tossed around, but nothing broke."

Edward chuckled. "She's already dealing with it better than I did."

"Maybe."

Edward took a moment to drink some water. "Mom is pressuring me to move faster with Bella."

Emmett raised a brow. "I thought you were doing okay."

At that statement, Edward threw his hands up in the air. "Thank you!"

"Mom looking to plan a wedding, is she?"

"I don't know. I think I hurt her feelings because she irritated me this morning."

"I'm sure she means well, but do you know how often she bugged Rose and me to have kids?"

Edward scoffed. "Hell, yeah. She did the same to me when I got married."

"I suppose I have a short reprieve while Bree is little," Emmett mused.

"Shit. It won't last but, for now, she's focused on me."

"I'm sorry to hear that. I think you're doing great. Just this time last month, you were on the edge of reason. Two months ago, you were getting blitzed at Jasper's party."

He nodded. "Thanks, Emmett."

If he thought about it, he realized it was a bitch to discover she was at least a tiny bit right. There wasn't exactly anything standing in his way from letting things progress. He certainly had feelings for Bella. She had strong feelings for him. Maggie loved her.

It didn't matter how many things he ticked off a list. He wasn't ready for that step. He didn't think it would take very much longer, but they'd been friends for four months and only been out one time. As he'd told his mother earlier, he wasn't going to propose after one date, no matter how much they pressured him.

But he couldn't stop thinking about Bella for the rest of the day. He knew she was working that evening, meaning he wouldn't be able to talk to her. It made him antsy. He was a little stronger each day, but he wasn't one hundred percent cured of the issues that plagued him. He trusted Bella implicitly, which was a plus. He didn't worry as much about his self-worth as he had just six weeks ago. Still, every decision had to be weighed against whether it was a knee jerk reaction to his emotions or if it was the right thing to do.

As long as Angela and Ben's case went unresolved, Edward would feel their betrayal as a festering wound. He thought about them in the back of his mind on a round-the-clock basis. There were moments where he could forget completely, like when Maggie was her usual boisterous self, but mostly the two of them hovered at the back of his consciousness. He needed to know they would be punished, that they would pay for what they'd done. He was comforted by the fact they would face the consequences of their actions, regardless of whether or not they were sorry.

He would see them; in Ben's case, at a trial, and in Angela's case, he assumed he'd only get one visit. But he would show them that they didn't matter to him anymore. They weren't important. He sighed as he tried to find a comfortable position in bed. It would help if he meant it by the time he got the chance to say it. For the time being, they mattered more than he liked. He needed a resolution he wouldn't soon receive.

His phone lit up from the nightstand and he reached for it. He grinned when he saw Bella's name on the display.

He swiped at the screen to stop the vibrating. "Hey, Bella."

"Hi. I didn't wake you, did I?" she asked softly.

He sat up in the dark. "No, unfortunately."

"Can't sleep?"

"Nope. I missed you today."

She hummed. "I missed you, too. A lot."

"Enough to call me after your late shift?" he teased.

"Yes, as a matter of fact." He heard the smile in her voice. "You were the first person I thought of when I clocked out."

That thought made him happy. "What are you doing now? Are you home, I hope?"

"Yeah, I'm feeding Tugger."

He pictured her in the tiny kitchen of her carriage house. "I'm glad you thought of me, because I sure thought of you. Earlier, I was wishing I could take you to dinner. How much longer do you have to work these late shifts?"

"About three months. I'm looking forward to it ending so I can spend more time with you and Maggie."

"That would be really nice." Edward shifted his legs on the bed. "I saw the therapist today. It went the same as last week."

"Just going every week is progress."

"Thanks for that. I've been thinking today that maybe I'm moving too slowly." He held his breath while he waited for her response.

"Did someone put that thought in your head?" she demanded.

He snorted. "How did you know?"

"Because the last time we talked about it, you and I agreed you're doing a great job, but now you're feeling like you're moving sluggishly. Even my dad mentioned to me how much better you appeared to be." Her tone was indignant, defensive.

"Well, he should know. He saw me at my worst, I suppose."

"That's an understatement, but that's part of the job. Other than seeing them in court, it's not typical for him to spend time with someone after their case has been more or less resolved." He heard a clank and a meow. "Move, Tugger."

He chuckled. "Is he getting in your face?"

"He's on the kitchen counter knocking into my food."

Edward groaned. "I hate that you're eating dinner at almost midnight."

"Not too much longer before it's a thing of the past. Besides, I ate during my lunch break, so this is more like a midnight snack."

He heard the cat again. "He just wants a nibble."

"It's never a nibble to him, it's stealing the entire thing. And if I cave, he's relentless the next time I eat."

Edward chuckled at the frustration in her voice. "Maggie will love him."

"Aw. I bet she will. We'll have to let her meet him."

He groaned internally. He wanted that. He wanted so much more, and it wasn't exactly a shocking revelation. "When will I see you again?"

There was a pause followed by a shuffling of papers. "Okay, I have to work late tomorrow and Thursday. So, Wednesday or Friday. I'm on this weekend, also; day shift."

"Yes."

"Yes to what?"

"Yes to all of it. I want all of your spare time."

"I love the sound of that, Edward."

"So do I."


Closer and closer!