Ahhh! Thank you guys so much! We've hit over 1,000 reviews…the lucky one going to CrazyWriterr. I'm so amazed at how much support you all have been giving me. I apologize for the late update—I needed some time to think up something good for this chapter (:
Six Months Later
"Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to introduce you all to Edward Masen and Bella Swan!"
A makeup artist swatted at my face one last time before Edward laced his fingers through mine as we stepped onto the stage and walked over to Tyra. My stomach churned uneasily. Tyra eventually started making weekly calls, asking us to make an appearance. At first, she claimed she was just checking on Edward, wanting to make sure he was okay, but then she began outright demanding that we do an episode. We didn't really have much of a choice.
I settled on a small loveseat and Edward sat next to me, still holding my hand. We all knew I didn't want to be here. I was pretty sure Edward didn't want to either, but Tyra had a way with words, if that's what you could call it. The last cycle for America's Next Top Model had already been released and aired every week. We agreed to appear on her show the week after the finale was released, as Tyra planned to divulge the details of our "secret romance". In a way, it made me feel sick, like Tyra was trying to corner me and show the world that I did something so horribly wrong. Edward assured me that wasn't the case.
"No, Bella," he'd said after I yelled at him for agreeing to go on the show. "She's doing this because she's proud."
"Proud? You're joking, right?" I asked, almost cowering from embarrassment.
"No, I'm serious. She wants people to see that real love does exist." That softened me up a bit. And now, here we were.
"So, I'm sure most of you recognize this beautiful woman sitting next to me," Tyra announced theatrically. She'd done her hair differently since I'd last seen her. She now brandished long, straight, caramel toned hair that swept past her shoulders. She looked much younger than her actual age.
"And all of you ladies will probably recognize the extremely talented gentleman sitting next to her," she continued. "But what none of you know about is the scandalous relationship that formed between the two of them while we filmed this last cycle of America's Next Top Model." On cue, she motioned to a television next to her and scenes from the cycle flashed on the flat screen. After our momentary jog down memory lane, Tyra clasped her hands together, excitement completely illuminating her eyes.
"Well, what I've always wanted to know," she started, "Is how did your relationship even start? Did you two know each other before the show started?"
I looked over at Edward, waiting for him to answer. After all, he approached me first. Edward shifted forward, ready to tell everyone about how we really met.
"Actually, we didn't know each other. Of course, I'd seen and interacted with her during the judging panel, but I didn't know her at all. We got to know each other when you asked me to stop by the girls' house one night."
Tyra nodded her head. "That's right, I asked you to be my little spy," she laughed. "What happened after that?" Edward nudged me.
"After that," I said, clearing my throat, "he took me for a walk and we eventually got to know one another."
"What was it like for you, Bella? I mean, it must have been hard keeping it from everyone." Tyra brushed her hair out of her face and looked at me expectantly. I rearranged the microphone that was attached to my shirt.
"I…I was scared," I admitted.
"About people finding out?"
"No," I said, clarifying. "I mean, yes, I was afraid of that happening, but I more afraid of the idea of Edward." Edward turned to stare at me, his hand resting lightly atop mine.
"You were afraid of Edward? I thought you were in love with him," Tyra said, asking obvious questions for the sake of the audience.
"I am. And that was what scared me, the idea that I could destroy everything for him. I tried to end things with him, but it didn't really work," I admitted. Edward chuckled beside me.
"How'd you end things? Or, at least try to end them?" she asked.
"She tried to break up with me when she was in the hospital," he said, appearing happy, but I heard the sadness tinged in his voice.
"You dumped him while you were in the hospital?" Tyra asked, amazed.
"I guess so, yeah," I said with a small laugh. "But that lasted for about two days, and we realized breaking up wasn't a good idea for either of us."
"You two really do look amazing together,' Tyra commented. Then she turned to face the audience and the cameras. "Now, don't go anywhere, in a few minutes, we're going to discover more about these two lovebirds!" Makeup artists ran on stage to readjust Tyra's hair and everything else. I kissed Edward swiftly on the cheek, which he returned with his own kiss, planting it fully on my lips. Several members of the audience cheered, causing me to blush uncontrollably. When the show started again, Tyra gave everyone a recap of what we were talking about before turning to pile more questions on us.
"Well, where are you two now?"
"We both live here in New York," Edward said, wrapping his arm around my shoulders.
"Really?" she asked, excitedly. "Do you live together?"
"Yes, we do," Edward said, proudly. I only survived living with Alice and Jasper for a month before Edward picked up on my desperation to get out of there. It was suffocating—mostly because I locked myself in my room whenever they were acting totally engaged…which was all the time. Unfortunately, Edward had set up some firm guidelines, hindering the physical aspect of our relationship. It drove the both of us insane, and I was frustrated with it more than half the time. Edward thought we should wait—our first time wasn't something he just wanted to throw out the window. It made no sense to me, but I respected his wishes. I thought about the day he asked me to move in with him.
Edward surprised me that morning with breakfast in the bed. He'd spent the night—only sleeping next to me, nothing more—and woke up early to fix us some pancakes.
"Good morning," he whispered as he set the tray next to me on the bed. I sat up and smiled at him.
"You made breakfast," I said happily. "Thank you." He climbed over the sheets to sit next to me, grabbing his own plate. I pulled my plate onto my lap, but my eyes lingered on something shining on the tray.
"Edward, what is that?" I asked, wearily. He swallowed his bite of food and turned to face me.
"That's a key to my apartment," he clarified.
"Why's it there? I have a spare key to your place already," I said slowly.
"I know. But that's not the spare key, that's your key."
"…my key?" I asked, confused. He took my hands in his and looked me fully in the eye.
"Isabelle Marie," he said, amused, yet serious at the same time. "Will you move in with me? I can't stand the feeling of you being so far away from me, even though you live across the street. My home is too empty, and I won't feel right until you're there with me."
I choked on my pancakes. He sat up in alarm, ready to give me the Heimlich, when I gulped down a sip of orange juice and somehow cleared my lungs.
"You're asking me to move in with you?" I squeaked.
"Yes," he said slowly, still checking to make sure I was okay. I had to strain myself to keep from jumping on him.
"Of course I will," I whispered in his ear, kissing his cheek.
"Wow, so, Bella, what's like living with Edward?" she asked, laughing at the thought of it.
"It's perfect," I replied, trying to stay away from mushy emotions. The audience sighed and awed.
"No commitment issues?" she asked.
"None whatsoever," Edward said before I could answer. "She's my life now, and nothing else matters." Tyra's grin stretched ear to ear and she pulled us into a hug.
"You two are so perfect for one another," she whispered in our ears. When she pulled back, she instantly started on a new tangent.
"So, any new modeling contracts?" she asked, devilishly. I swatted my hand at her, buying myself time before answering her.
"There've been a few offers," I replied, hesitantly. She waited for me to answer fully. I didn't want to tell her how many I'd turned down. Each contract had something to do with me working all the time, or with my leaving home to travel everywhere. It wasn't that I didn't want to travel around the world, I just didn't want to leave Edward. "I've actually been working a lot with Wilhelmina Models as a modeling coach." After a few months of actually modeling for a living, I was miserable. That's when J. contacted me out of the blue, and before I knew it, I was coaching. Tyra's eyes lit up.
"Wilhelmina! A modeling coach? That's wonderful Bella!" I looked down, embarrassed. Edward cupped the back of my neck reassuringly. The show didn't go on much longer after that, and Edward and I were free to live without Tyra's incessant reminders and nagging.
When we got home, I slumped down on the couch, closing my eyes. I felt Edward sit down next to me. He toyed my hair, twisting strands of it around his fingers. It was when I felt his breath along my neck and collarbone that I popped open my eyes and turned to face him.
"What are you doing?" I asked, mesmerized by his smoldering eyes. I swallowed uneasily.
"Right now," he whispered, his breath blowing a stray bang out of my face, "I'm kissing you." Our lips molded together perfectly, moving in beautiful synchronization. My heart rammed against my throat. Knotting my fingers into his hair, I pulled him against me on the couch, deepening our embrace. His breath was just as ragged as mine was when he pulled back to breathe. I stared into his sparking, emerald eyes and felt shivers run down my spine. He leaned in to kiss me again, but as soon as we came into contact, my cell phone buzzed on the coffee table. I groaned and pulled away from him.
"Leave it," he mumbled, kissing my neck. Impulsively, I grabbed it and checked the caller ID.
"Wait," I gasped, trying to control myself. "It's Alice." Edward sighed and sat up. Alice's wedding was in a week. Every time she called, something was going wrong with the caterers or her dress wasn't quite right. I'd been forced into enough fittings at it was. At each and every single one, Alice spotted a mistake as soon as I'd slipped my bride's maid gown on.
"Hi Alice," I said into the receiver, still out of breath.
"Do you want to get coffee with me tomorrow morning?" she asked. I immediately picked up on the desperate tone in her voice.
"Oh no, Alice, is everything okay?" I asked, praying she wasn't getting cold feet.
"Yes, everything's fine," she said quickly. "I just wanted to talk, that's all."
"Well, sure, I'll meet you at Joe's at eight?" I asked, hoping she wouldn't demand that I be there at some other ridiculous hour.
"That's perfect. See you then, love you," she said, hanging up quickly. I stared at the device in my hand, confused.
"What was that about?" Edward asked, pulling the phone out of my hand and setting it down on the table.
"Alice is acting weird," I confessed. "I really hope she's not having second thoughts." Edward brushed the hair out of my face gently.
"I doubt that, Bella," he said flatly. "They already act like they're married. Maybe she just genuinely wanted to have coffee with you?"
"Yeah, maybe you're right," I sighed. "Anyway, what are we doing for dinner?" I asked, too tired from the day's events to actually cook a decent meal. "Would you be upset if I didn't cook us something?"
"Absolutely not," he said reassuringly, brushing his fingertips along my cheekbone. "I can call Gia's and see how long a wait there is," he suggested. Gia's had become one of our favorite Italian restaurants over the past several months. We'd gone there a lot.
"Okay," I agreed, happily. My stomach had been growling for the past hour, but I didn't have the energy to get up and feed myself. Edward pulled out his phone and dialed the number while I settled comfortably next to him on the couch, burrowing myself into his side.
"Hey Lucy," Edward said cheerfully. "It's Edward Masen." He paused while she greeted him, now recognizing his voice. "I just want to see how long the wait is, Bella and I are thinking about stopping by." He paused again. "That's perfect, would you put my name down?" he asked. When he hung up, he smiled at me.
"Half an hour wait, she penciled us in." I kissed his shoulder and forced myself to leave the comfort of his arms and the couch.
"I'll go fix myself up," I sighed. My hair probably looked like a haystack now.
"You look beautiful, love," he said, pulling on my wrist to stop me. "Just relax, it's been a long day."
I resisted the urge to pout. "Maybe I should just throw my hair up into a ponytail then," I thought out loud.
"Do whatever's going to make you comfortable," he said, pulling me back into his arms and snaking his hands through my hair. He planted a kiss on my forehead, his lips lingering there for a moment. "We should go," he said, releasing me from his arms. He walked over to the hall closet and muddled around inside it until he pulled out a tan leather jacket for himself and a black pea coat for me.
"Is this coat okay for you?" he asked. I nodded and thanked him for grabbing it for me. Edward swerved the car through traffic on the way to the restaurant, suddenly very quiet. He seemed to be brooding about something, thinking deeply. I didn't want to ask or disturb his thoughts, so I settled on people watching from inside the car. Even though it was dark outside, I could see well enough from the many city lights.
He parked along the street about a block away from the restaurant, knowing we wouldn't find a space further up. Edward was out of his seat in seconds and walking around to open my door for me.
"So chivalrous," I joked, pecking him on the cheek as he leaned down to help me onto the curb. He laced his fingers through mine as we walked to the restaurant. My breath hung in frigid air. For the beginning of October, it was unusually cold. Maybe I just wasn't used to New York weather yet. After all, I hadn't been there long enough to experience all of the seasons. Edward seemed perfectly accustomed to the weather. He still hadn't spoken a full sentence the entire walk. I made most of the conversation and he would agree or mutter short replies. By the time we got to the restaurant, I wanted to stamp my foot and ask him what his problem was. An hour ago, at home, he was perfectly fine. The gears in my head were now turning like mad. Had I said something that upset him at the show? He didn't seem bothered by anything at the time. Maybe he was having second thoughts about us being together? Then the hugest blow of them all ran through my mind: he was taking me here to break up with me. I shuddered and wrapped my arms around myself as we walked into the restaurant, greeted by a friendly waitress.
"Edward," Lucy greeted us. "You're table will be ready in five minutes," she said with a huge grin.
"Thank you," he said, politely. I said down on a bench to wait, my palms now sweaty from sheer nerves. I didn't know what I would do without him; I was entirely dependent upon Edward now. I felt like I couldn't breathe whenever he wasn't around. On the rare occasion that he wasn't home by the time I was ready for bed, I would toss and turn all night until he swooped in to save me, as always. I clung to the pure and simple fact that Edward was my life, and without him, I was nothing. Boy, if my mother could hear me saying that.
I gnawed on my lip until a waitress called Edward's name and we were led to a private booth at the back of the restaurant. She handed us our menus with a fake smile.
"Hi, my name is Jessica and I'll be your server tonight," she started.
"Actually, Jess, let me get these guys," Lucy said, butting in. She had her blond hair tied in an elegant bun at the back of her head and was already waiting for us to order our usual meals.
"I'll have a coke," I ordered, my voice small.
"The same for me," Edward said smoothly.
"Okay, and do we already know what we want to eat?" she asked, placing her hand on her hip. Edward looked across the table at me and shrugged. I already knew what I wanted, but I didn't have much of an appetite.
"My usual," I stated, handing her the menu. She scribbled my order down while Edward ordered his usual as well. When Lucy left, I picked up a packet of sugar from the end of the table and poured its contents on the table, swirling designs in the white powder with my little finger.
"What are you doing?" Edward asked, sounding amused.
"Oh," I said, startled. "Just messing around," I sighed, scooping the sugar into my hand and dropping it into a napkin. Edward shrugged out of his jacket and set it beside him. I didn't want to take my coat off, I felt like its buttons were the only things keeping me together. By the time Lucy brought our food to the table, I felt like I was going to die. The idea that this could have been the last meal I ever ate with Edward was terrifying. I looked at my mushroom ravioli and speared one of the pieces, forcing myself to eat it. Edward ate his chicken parmesan quietly. I wanted to desperately to ask him what was wrong, to ask him what I had done, but he wouldn't even look at me. He just stared down at his plate, picking at his food the same way I was. After what seemed an eternity of silence, he finally looked up at me.
"Bella?" he asked, his voice hoarse.
"Yes?" I all but whispered.
"You do know I meant every word I said on the show today, right?" he asked. Huh?
"I don't…I don't understand," I said, meekly. "What are you talking about?"
"You are my life, the entire reason for my being. I don't know how I've made it this long without you, but I do know that I can't go on without you by my side." His voice was still incredibly hoarse, even shaking. He reached into his pocket.
"Edward?" I asked. He produced a black velvet box and opened it, holding it out in front of me. I gazed down at the beautiful, shining ring that lay nestled between the fabrics.
"I promise to love with the entirety of my soul, to give you everything I have to offer and spend the rest of my life with you, as long as you will allow me to. Isabella Marie Swan, will you marry me?"
I raised a shaking hand to my mouth, in complete shock. My eyes darted between Edward and the ring until I felt hot tears stream down my cheeks.
"Yes," I managed to choke out. "Oh, God, yes." Edward's face completely lit up, stretching into a breathtaking grin as he slid the ring onto my finger, cradling my hand in his. I was still crying, my chest shaking with broken sobs in a cathartic release.
"Why are you crying?" he asked, suddenly panicked. "Did I upset you?" He came around to my side of the table and sat down next to me, wrapping his arms around my body. I shook my head into his shoulder, trying to compose myself.
"No," I whispered. "I thought you were going to break up with me," I gasped.
"What?" he asked, sounding appalled. "You thought I was going to break up with you? That's absolutely absurd. I can't live without you, Bella."
"I can't either," I cried. "I don't know what to do when you aren't here. I just love you so much."
He kissed my temple gently, rocking me back and forth. "Oh, Bella. Now we'll have each other forever," he whispered in my ear. I looked down at the ring on my finger and smiled, feeling elated.
Lucy came by a few moments after that and gave us congratulations, then gave us the bill. I bounced in my seat excitedly on the way home with a dumb grin on my face the entire time. I skipped happily into Edward arms on the way to the elevator. Finding it empty, I leaned in to kiss him, surprised by how much passion he returned in the gesture. My breath hitched in my throat as I felt his tongue run along my bottom lip, begging me to grant him entrance. I accepted, groaning as he wrapped his arms around my waste and pulled me closer to him.
The elevator doors swung open when we got to our floor and I pulled away from him slightly. He scooped me into his arms, surprising me, and carried me into the apartment. His lips immediately crashed down onto mine as soon as the door was closed and locked behind us. Now on my feet, I tangled my fingers in his hair, pressing myself against him as hard as I could. Usually by now, he would have stopped us from going any further, but instead, he gradually led me into the bedroom.
"Edward…" I said, pulling back from him and out of breath. "Are we…?"
"Shhh," he coaxed, pulling me closer to him. My hand fumbled around behind me until I found the edge of bed, pulling us onto it. Before I had even realized it happened, my jacket was removed from my body and Edward was playing with the edge of my shirt, brushing his fingers along the exposed skin of my stomach. My heart was racing as he pulled his own shirt off, revealing his toned muscles and I pulled at the button on his jeans. My mind was screaming the entire time. This was really happening.
When our bodies connected, it was like the pieces of our souls completely molded together, become a single entity. I loved Edward more than I thought it was possible to love anything. The full force of it all hit me the next morning when I woke up. Staring at him while he slept, he looked so peaceful. So perfect. I knew he was the only person in this world that was meant for me.
I quietly got out of bed to get dressed for coffee. I had a little less than a half an hour to get ready and be there. Pulling on a clean pair of jeans and a long sleeved t-shirt, I kissed Edward's cheek lightly and went to write him a note. While I was scribbling my message down, I heard him call my name softly from the bedroom.
I hurried into the room, nearly launching myself at him and raining kisses down his neck. "I love you," I sang in his ear.
"I love you, too," he whispered at me, kissing me deeply before I left. I met Alice at the coffee shop a few minutes before eight, right on time. I ordered a cup of coffee while she bought a water bottle. When we sat down at the table, her eyes locked on my hand.
"Bella," she started. "What is that?" I slowly held up my hand, letting her see the ring. "Oh my God…" she breathed.
"He asked me to marry him last night," I said with a huge grin on my face. She smiled back and reached across the table to pull me into her arms.
"That's wonderful, Bells," she said. "I'm so happy for you!"
"I know," I sighed. "It's perfect."
She sipped her water uncomfortably, still staring at my ring.
"Alice?" I asked, dragging her attention away from my finger. "Is everything okay?" She sighed and dropped her head into her hands.
"I'm such a terrible friend. I should be doing cartwheels around the room for you right now," she said. "I'm so sorry. I've just got a lot on my mind."
"That's okay, Ali," I said, reaching across the table to smooth down her hair. "What's wrong? You aren't having second thoughts, are you?"
Her head snapped up and she shook her head. "No, not at all."
"Then what is it? Did the caterer order Salmon instead of Halibut?"
"No," she sighed, her bottom lip trembling. I waited for her to respond, truly worried. "Bella," she stared, her voice shaking. "I'm pregnant."
The world seemed to stop for a moment. I felt a grin stretch across my face. I couldn't help it. "Really?" I gasped.
"Yeah," she said shortly. "Pregnant."
"That's amazing, Alice!" I exclaimed. She looked up at me slowly, her eyes full of confusion.
"You aren't mad?" she asked.
"Mad? Why would I be mad?" I asked, ecstatic at the thought of being an aunt.
"I just know how much you've wanted kids your entire life, and I didn't want you to hate me because I was having a kid when you weren't. And I'm so terrified that Jasper I won't be ready for it. A baby? How are we going to manage that?"
I sighed and set my coffee down. "First of all, Alice," I said, sternly. "I'm incredibly happy for you, and I'm not angry in the slightest. And second of all, you and Jasper will be wonderful parents. That child is going to be so lucky. And look at the bright side, you aren't going to look fat in your wedding dress because you're getting married so soon. "
She let out a small laugh and smiled at me. "Thanks for this, Bella," she sighed.
"Thanks for what? I'm your best friend. It's what I do." She suddenly perked up and pulled out her phone, dialing a number quickly.
"I have to call the wedding venue—three of Jasper's cousins called yesterday to say they're coming."
"I see," I stated. "Well, I've gotta go," I said, downing the last of my coffee.
"Where are you in such a hurry to get to?"
"I've got my own wedding start planning," I winked at her, really just running back home to jump back into Edward's waiting arms.
AN: So, I know I threw a lot at you guys in this chapter. I'm trying to wrap things up here, but we've got a couple more chapters left. I know a bunch of you have been asking me to do a sequel, but I honestly don't think that's a very good idea. This story was only meant to be so long, and dragging it out like that would kill it.
Buuutttt, I do have something else I want to ask you guys. I know I've got other stories going right now, but I'm completely taken by this idea that popped into my head the other day. Of course, you may ask me what it's about, but I have a really good feeling about this one, and I want to get it started right away. I just want to know if you guys would even be willing to read it, what with my crappy updating and my overall…crappiness. But, please let me know what you think about it.
Also, I just wanted to thank you all so much for your support and everything you've done to help me. I really appreciate it, even those of you who send me mean, nasty reviews and PMs. I appreciate you all.
Anyway, let me know what you thought of the chapter, or if you have any questions whatsoever. I love you all! (: