DISCLAIMER: The characters do not belong to us, although we would love to have Edward. They all belong to Stephenie Meyer, but we are willing to purchase them if she ever decides to sell. Bolded & Italic text comes from New Moon.
"Bella, please," I pleaded for the fifth time. "I need you to talk to me."
She had been letting me hold her, allowing me to keep her close, but she stubbornly refused to look up at me. All I wanted to do was shower her with kisses, but I couldn't do that until I knew for certain that she still loved me.
"Edward, you already said everything you needed to say in the woods that day," she sighed, keeping her head and eyes focused on the floor of the plane.
"Isabella, if you truly believed that, you would not have come to Italy. You love me."
"I never said I didn't."
"Then why won't you talk to me?"
"Because you don't love me," she replied, her voice barely more than a breath.
"How can you say that?" I asked, trying to keep from sobbing. "I love you so much more than I could ever say. You are my angel, my Bella."
"But…you…said…" she stuttered, finally looking at me. Her brown eyes were filled with so much hope and fear that it broke my undead heart.
I held her face in my hands, stroking her warm cheeks with the pads of my thumbs. How I had missed her warmth, her smile, her voice…I had missed every single thing about her and now that she was with me again, I would never let anyone or anything come between us.
"Will you please try to hear what I'm telling you? Will you let me attempt to explain what you mean to me?" I waited to make sure she was really listening. "Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars—points of light and reason…And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn't see the stars anymore. And there was no more reason for anything. That's why I went to Volterra, Bella. I thought you had left me here, all alone, without a single reason to live. I love you so much that I can't handle the idea of living in a world where you are not."
"Do you mean that?" she asked, begging me with her wet, brown eyes to tell her the absolute truth.
I smiled the crooked grin she loved best. "I do, Isabella. I mean it more than anything I have ever said in my entire life. I love you and I want to be with you. If you'll take me back."
"Oh, Edward," she cried, throwing her arms around my neck. "I never stopped loving you, not for one single second. We are far from done talking about this, but I'm just so happy that you're back. Please promise that you won't ever leave again."
"I can't leave, Bella. I can't do anything without you," I confessed. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
I tried to get her to sleep, knowing we had plenty more to talk about once we made it back to Forks. But my stubborn Bella refused to sleep, preferring to stare at me and trace my face with her little hands instead.
The rain was coming down in thick sheets as the plane touched down in Forks. It was evening now and it was quite chilly, not that I could feel the temperature difference myself. I only knew because it was the main thought running through the minds of many of the humans inside the airport.
As we came off the concourse, Alice led the way to the parking garage where our family was waiting for us. Bella was barely awake and staggered a bit as I held her to me, trying to keep up with Alice.
The last forty-eight hours had put all of us through hell. I was barely able to contain the myriad of emotions welling up within me. I felt anger at myself for leaving Bella at all. There was also overwhelming despair at the fact that it was becoming all too clear to me exactly how much damage my absence had done, not only to myself but to my family and my Bella. My world had been upside down for months now and at the last possible moment, my angel, my Bella had saved me from myself. She came for me…for me! She was the one who usually needed saving.
I loved this woman more than I had ever been willing to admit to myself. That realization surprised me because I thought I had already admitted the depth of my feelings for her. The real truth was that I had been a coward. I knew I had to make this right; make all the pain go away.
Bella turned her head the slightest bit and the scent of her hair made my head swim and my eyes close, as I greedily soaked her in. As if she could hear my internal struggle, she stopped walking and stared up at me.
"Edward, are you alright?" she asked.
"Yes, of course," I said, trying to reassure her with a smile. "I just wish we could be alone and talk," I added, placing a kiss on the top of her head.
She nodded in agreement before turning her attention back toward her feet. She was probably worried about tripping, but I was here now and I would not let her fall.
I took her hand in mine and kissed the back of it. Bella looked up at me again, giving me a weary smile. She had forced herself to stay awake the entire trip. It was almost like she expected me disappear at any moment. She looked so exhausted and the last few hours had been overwhelming for her—I just wanted to get her home so she could sleep. I held her closer to my side, speeding up our pace just a bit. The sooner we could get away from the airport, the sooner Bella could rest.
As we made our way through the parking garage, I recognized Emmett's Jeep. There was never a chance to get Bella out of his way; he sprinted at us and hugged us both.
"Bella, Edward!" he yelled, as he tightened his bear hug a bit. "I'm glad to see you both…Together…Where you belong!" He flashed that goofy grin of his and caused us both to chuckle. From his thoughts, I knew this greeting was for Bella's sake. My brother would have plenty more to say to me once we were alone.
Emmett moved aside for Esme and Carlisle to be able to hug us as the rest of our family surrounded us. As Esme held tightly to me, I watched Jasper and Alice hold one another lovingly. From his thoughts, I could tell just how worried he had been about his wife. He was also planning to have a private conversation with me about my behavior.
I pretended not to see my other sister; if she hadn't called me, the Volturi would not know about Bella. Then again, if she had not called, I might not have made it back to Bella at all. And now that I was with her again, I knew it was where I truly belonged, despite whatever dangers might be lurking out there for the two of us. Together, we could make it through any struggle. But alone…Well, I knew I was definitely, completely useless on my own.
I watched my sister from the corner of my eye, and I had to admit that Rose looked repentant. Her face showed she was both devastated and relieved as she stood with Emmett's arm around her shoulders.
"Edward, I have thought of so many things to say to you, most of which involved tearing your hair out for scaring me so badly," Esme said, as she held my face in her hands. "But now that you are here, I can only tell you that I love you. Please, please promise that you will think things through next time," she pleaded.
"Yes, Mom," was all I could reply. I knew that I had put my family through the worst of times and needed to make it up to them all.
"Bella, my dear Bella," Esme sighed, hugging her tightly. "You are part of this family now and I can never repay you for what you have done for Edward. Not just for bringing him back, Bella, but for everything."
"Esme, I have caused so much trouble for all of you." Bella replied. "Thank you for your kind words, but mostly I'm just glad we can all be together again, and I am very sorry for all of your worry." Esme and Bella smiled at one another lovingly—not unlike a normal mother and a daughter would.
Carlisle put his arm around Bella as he walked her to my car. "Bella, I would like for you to speak with your father and let him know that you are safe and that you will be returning home in one week," he stated.
"Carlisle, I am home," she replied confused.
"Yes, you are, dear. But Edward and you need time to talk things over," Esme explained.
"And you need to rest after everything you have been through in Volterra," Carlisle added. "It isn't every day that a young woman races half way across the world to stop the man she loves from killing himself." Carlisle smiled down at Bella, his love for her evident in his topaz eyes.
His words made my insides turn as a fresh wave of guilt swept over me. Bella had truly done the unthinkable for me—she had risked her life to save mine. That had to mean that she still loved me. After everything I had put her through, her love was still as strong as ever.
"The rest of us will need to hunt. Maybe we'll go to Denali," Carlisle said, glancing at the rest of our family. "We are due for a visit."
I was consumed with gratitude for my father's thoughtfulness. Bella and I did have a lot to discuss and if she were to go back home so soon, Charlie would definitely get in the way of that. Not to mention that my sisters would surely whisk her off somewhere to grill her with their own questions.
"Thank you, Carlisle," Bella said softly. "I don't think Charlie will agree to it, but what do you have in mind?"
"I'm sure that if I speak to him as well, he will know that you are with adults and not alone with Edward. I will explain to him that we need to discuss everything that has happened so we can decide on the best way to proceed. This of course involves us returning to Forks in a week's time," Carlisle explained.
Alice reached for Bella's hand reassuringly and giggled. "Bella, it will work!" she sang. "Trust us!"
"Bella needs to sit down before we make any calls," I said, daring anyone to argue with me.
As I opened the car door for Bella, Rosalie took Bella's hand and turned it into a hug. "Oh, Bella! I am so sorry for what happened! Please say you will forgive me!" she pleaded, her eyes filled with emotion.
"Of course, Rose. It was all a big misunderstanding," Bella replied, as she hugged Rose back. At that moment, I realized Bella was stronger and more loving than any of us had comprehended; and maybe more than any of us deserved. I knew that hug was momentous for Bella, since Rose had never said more than a few words to her in the past.
Rosalie looked shaken as she held onto Bella's shoulders. "Welcome home, sis." Rose smiled warmly at Bella and then turned to face me sullenly. "Edward, I know I will never earn your forgiveness. I only hope that you can see it was a mistake, a horrible mistake."
Before she could finish, I interrupted her. "Rose…I know."
She smiled, obviously relieved that she wouldn't have to speak aloud all of the apologies that were flying through her mind.
"Bella is back and our family is safe. That is all that matters now," I said as gently as I could. "You and I will talk another time, but right now, everything is still too raw. Bella and I need to get through some things and then I can focus on other issues." I knew that Rose was hurting over this and wanted to talk, but frankly I was too angry to deal with her yet.
Rose nodded and folded her arms across her chest as she turned back to Emmett. His thoughts let me know that he was thankful I had not yelled at his wife.
Once we had made our way back to our vehicles, Carlisle slid into the backseat of my car, gently pulling Bella in after him. I closed the door for them and then got into the driver's seat.
"Okay, Bella," Carlisle said softly. "Use my phone to call Charlie and let me speak to him first. I think if this comes from one father to another, he will be okay with the news."
Bella smiled incredulously as she dialed the number. "You Cullen men are much too confident! My dad will never fall for this," she added as she passed the phone to Carlisle.
"Hello?" Charlie answered on the first ring.
"Good afternoon, Charlie. This is Carlisle Cullen."
"Where's Bella? Is she hurt?" Charlie screamed into the phone, clearly panicked.
"No, of course not, Charlie. Bella is fine. She is right here actually. I just wanted to speak with you first." Carlisle's voice was calm and collected.
"I'm listening," Charlie said sternly.
"My family is in Los Angeles, as I am sure you are aware of."
"Bella is in L.A.?" Charlie yelled into the phone.
"Yes. Alice and she drove up here to prevent Edward from making yet another horrible mistake," Carlisle explained. "This brings me to why I wanted to speak with you."
"That son of yours has done enough damage to my daughter, Mr. Cullen! Get her on the phone now please." Charlie was getting increasingly irate.
"Charlie, I understand you are worried, but please just listen. My family and I will be heading back to Forks in one week, and I will be happy to deliver Bella to you myself. While she is with us, she will be supervised, of course. We are as upset about all of this as you are, but since she is already here, Esme and I feel it is in everyone's best interest for us all to discuss the events that have taken place before we return. If we do not, Esme fears Edward and Bella will repeat their mistakes," Carlisle finished.
Bella stared at Carlisle intensely as I watched them both from my rearview mirror. Charlie's silence on the phone was holding us all in suspense.
"Carlisle, thank you for your generosity, but I would like to discuss this with Bella before giving my permission. Please put her on the phone," Charlie said.
"Of course, of course...Here she is." Carlisle handed Bella the phone and nodded approvingly to her.
"Hi, dad," she whispered.
"Bella Swan!" Charlie yelled. "Of all the crazy things you have done, this has to take the cake, young lady!"
"Dad, I know, but let me explain—" Bella started.
Charlie interrupted her. "Are you hurt? Because if there is one missing hair on your head, I will have that boy's head on a platter!" he yelled.
Bella smiled wide, probably picturing that in her head. "Dad, Mr. Cullen has offered to take me home in a week. I know everything is crazy right now, but I will explain it all when I get back home. I need this time, dad. I need to have time with Edward to figure things out. There have been some severe misunderstandings, dad. Please let me do this." Bella was even convincing me with her pleading.
Charlie was once again silent for a long while before he eventually let out a deep sigh. "Bella, you better call me during the week! You leave me in the dark and I am on the first flight to L.A. myself. Do you understand?" he fussed.
Bella laughed despite the seriousness of the situation. "Yes, dad. I will call, I promise. I love you," she added, her voice soft.
"I love you too, honey. Call me in the morning. I need to call your mom now and let her know you're alive."
As Bella hung up and handed the phone back to Carlisle, she smiled. "Why anyone would bet against Alice is beyond me."
Carlisle kissed her cheek and started to get out of the car, satisfied that Charlie was taken care of. "Now with that settled, we will see you both in a week," he said as he exited the car. Carlisle smiled at me through my window, allowing me to hear his thoughts. "Good to have you home, son."
I wished he could read my own thoughts and know that I felt it was good to be home.
Once we were alone in the car, I turned to Bella. "Are you ok?" I asked.
"Of course, Edward. But I will be better when I can get some sleep. Take me home," she finished with a yawn.
"But I thought you just told Charlie you would be back in a week?" I asked sadly.
She smiled at me, shaking her head slightly. "To your home, Edward…Our home."
I smiled despite myself. This woman made me happier than I had ever imagined I could be. "I love the sound of that, Bella. Our home it is." There was so much I wanted to say, but I knew that speaking now would only delay her getting her rest. It would just have to be later; there would be time.
She remained in the backseat, lying down on her side, and quickly fell asleep. I was lost in my thoughts as I drove in the darkness. The pounding rain and Bella's soft breathing were the only sounds keeping me company, but I didn't mind the solitude at all. It gave me the time I needed calm my emotions and arrange my thoughts.
As I turned on the tree lined road leading to my house, something snapped me out of my thoughts. Someone was there in the dark. All at once I could hear him—Jacob.
His thoughts were angry as we watched my car from his spot in the dark. "Glad you brought her back in one piece, bloodsucker," he thought.
As I weighed my options, I noticed Bella still hadn't stirred. This was not something she needed to deal with right now, so I would do my best to get the wolf to leave without her ever waking up.
I rolled down the window and spoke low, knowing he would hear me. "Jacob, she is asleep, and I would like to be able to get her to bed. Is there any particular reason you are here?" I tried to keep calm as I brought the car to a stop in front of the garage, staring right at Jacob in wolf form.
"We need to talk! Get her inside and meet me outside after. Make it quick or I will come after you myself." As soon as he finished that thought, he ran off into the woods, clearing the way for me.
I parked my car in the garage, trying to keep my anger in check. I came around to Bella's side as quickly as I could, just in case the mutt was trying to ambush us.
"We're home, sweetheart," I whispered into her ear as I held her in my arms.
She wrapped her arms around my neck and I turned, shutting the door with my leg. As I walked through the house, I made a note of everything I would need to do to make the house feel inviting and warm for Bella; it still felt empty with the sheets covering much of the furniture.
I made my way to my room in the darkness and settled Bella onto my sofa. Tomorrow, I would get her a proper bed. Once again a wave of gratitude came over me for my father's great idea. Nothing made me happier than having her in my home, in my room, alone and all to myself.
I removed her shoes, covered her with a blanket, and then kissed her forehead. I smiled as I watched her snuggle further under the covers. I couldn't blame Jacob for fighting for her so hard. But she was mine. Now more than ever, I would have to make that clear to him.
Bella stirred, her eyes fluttering open. As soon as she found me, a smile broke out across her delicate face. "Edward you're staring," she whispered.
"It is you who's doing the dazzling now, love," I said as I kissed her forehead and then her cheeks.
"I was asleep; there was no dazzling going on," she teased, smiling coyly.
I was so happy to hear her sweet voice and to have her being herself, teasing me. I knew a lot of things needed to be discussed, but right now, I only cared that she was here—really here. "Bella, your very presence dazzles me," I said as I kissed her lips.
She propped herself on one elbow and traced her fingers over my brow, sending an electric shock through my skin. "Edward, you need to feed. Your eyes are darker than I have ever seen them." She was speaking so tenderly to me that I was tempted to stay. Screw Jacob Black.
I knew the mongrel was waiting out in the woods and that I had to go, so I decided to use the need to hunt as a guise to keep her here and safe. "Yes, Bella, I was on my way to do just that. And just so you know, I have no intention of leaving your side afterward, for any reason," I whispered into her ear.
She yawned and set herself back down, seemingly happy with my pledge. "Go on. I will catch up on my sleep and you get some dinner," she said, her voice fading as she fell back to sleep.
"Rest now, love. I will be back before you wake," I promised. I made sure she was asleep before heading back down the stairs.
I stepped out into the front yard, checking my surroundings carefully. The rain had died down some but was still coming down pretty hard. I closed my eyes for a moment, wanting to pinpoint Jacob's scent. He was off to the right, not too far into the trees. I headed in that direction and could hear his growling almost immediately.
His growling angered me beyond reason. Who was he to judge my actions with Bella? He was nothing more than a mutt. He had no concept of how much I loved her, cherished her. I had only left to protect her; or at least that was what I had believed at the time. I might have been well over a century in physical years, but emotionally and mentally, I was just a seventeen year old in love for the first time. I was bound to make mistakes, but as long as Bella forgave me, nothing else mattered.
All of the times she had been in danger flashed across my mind, enraging me further. I was sick and tired of her life being in jeopardy. One of us might very well lose a life tonight, but it would not be me. I would never again leave my Bella.