Um... Hi again... here's a little something guy might have been waiting for for... a really long time...


The rest of the weekend passed without incident. The night of our conversation, Bella and I stayed in her bed for as long as we thought Alice's blood pressure could handle. When we finally emerged from her room, we really didn't have to say anything. Alice saw us walking hand in hand down the hall and started to squeal uncontrollably.

"You owe me fifty bucks, Ed-o," Emmett said without even looking up from the cards he was holding in his hand from playing poker with the others.

"It's about time," Rose muttered under her breath, and cast Bella a sarcastic glance. I couldn't help but bask in warmth of the revelation that everyone had been on our side, and that I'd finally faced my past and could move forward with my life.

The following day was my birthday, and I couldn't have asked for a better day. I woke up that morning with Bella in my arms, sleeping soundly and peacefully without a care in the world. Her soft little snores were so cute, I felt like I could listen to them all day. When she finally awoke, she looked up at me with those big doe eyes, unfocused and bleary with sleep, and smiled the most innocent, beautiful smile I had ever had the pleasure of laying eyes on.

"Happy birthday," she whispered in a thick voice before placing a soft kiss on my chin. I couldn't have been happier. I just held her tightly and kissed her forehead every so often just to keep assuring myself that all of this was real.

She got up and cooked breakfast for everyone; bacon, eggs, and pancakes. Though it was simple, I felt like it was the best food I'd ever tasted. I couldn't tell if it was just because I was still riding high on a wave of euphoria of having everything actually work out for the better, or if Bella was actually that spectacular of a cook. I was inclined to believe it was a little bit of both. After breakfast, the rest of the day was spent lounging on the sand, napping, or playing cards. All of which were done with Bella by my side. I couldn't seem to kiss her enough and I never tired of the feel of her skin against mine.

Alice insisted that we all go out to a salty little restaurant overlooking the gulf for dinner that night in celebration of my birthday. The place was small and shabby, but the view was fantastic. We drank and laughed, and even though it was low key I couldn't remember ever having a better birthday. Emmett proposed a toast in my honor, and said that almost knocking me out was one of the best things he'd ever done. We all laughed and I took the toast in stride.

I thought back, it really all had happened because I wasn't paying attention to where I was going. Or I guess it was really because I was too distracted by Bella to notice a wall of a guy coming at me. I never thought I'd see her again, and I sure as hell never thought she'd steal my heart. Hell, I never thought anyone would. But as I sat at the table with all of my new friends, better people and better friends than anyone I knew back home by a mile, I realized that everything I thought I knew had just been an illusion. These were real friends; people who banded together, supported each other, and wanted you to be happy. What I had in Seattle were people who were just looking for the next party, the next chick, the next rush. And at the time I was one of them too but it took uprooting my entire life and getting rid of everything I knew for me to realize that there was more to life than the next cheap thrill. The Edward I was a month ago would have looked at me now and said I was a sap. But I look back on the old me, and think that I was just pathetic, with misplaced priorities

That evening after dinner, Bella and I watched the sunset together from the porch overlooking the water, and as beautiful as the streaks of orange and pink across the sky were they were nothing compared to her. And I told her so, as often as I could without feeling like a walking cliché. She'd just smile at me with those lips that were so perfect it was almost unfair to the rest of the world and tell me I was being silly. She really didn't see herself clearly, and I made a silent promise to myself that I would change that. When it was thoroughly dark outside, we loaded up the cars and made our way home. This time, I rode back with Bella, just the two of us, her hand firmly clasped in mine as the warm summer air whipped through our hair in the night.

She pulled up in front of my apartment building and got out of the car.

"I hope you don't mind having company tonight," she said with a grin.

"Absolutely not. I wouldn't mind having company every night," I replied pulling our bags from the trunk of her car and heading toward the stairs.

My apartment was dark, and cool but with the addition of all the new furniture I still hadn't quite learned my way around in the dark yet. So after opening the door, I put our bags down on the floor and began feeling along the wall for a light switch. In the darkness I felt Bella's arms come to encircle my waist, but something wasn't quite right. This arm seemed thin and fragile, bony and angular.

"Surprise, baby," a soft voice whispered in my ear just as I felt the cool plastic switch between my fingers. The light flicked on and I was momentarily disoriented by the sudden brightness but not so much that I didn't recoil away from the shock of red hair nuzzled into my side.

"What the fuck!" I shouted, pushing Kayla's waifish body away from me as she struggled to keep hold.

"Edward baby, what's wrong? Aren't you happy to see me?" She pulled at my shirt as I swatted her hands away in protest.

"Happy to see you? Are you kidding me? How did you even get in here?" My mind was racing. I'd never been more furious or confused in my entire life.

"I told the landlord I was your girlfriend and he let me right in."

"Oh did he now? Sounds like I need to find a place to live that employs competent people then," I growled.

"Edward, can you help me with this-" Bella froze in the front entry way as she rounded the corner. The expression on her face said it all; she was as confused and angry as I was.

"Who the hell is she?" Kayla spat, a putrid sneer twisting across her overly made-up face.

Shit. Shit. Shit! In my mind's eye I saw Bella taking in the scene of Kayla in my apartment and bolting for the door, assuming that everything I'd said was a lie. To my surprise, she didn't. Instead my Bella drew herself up to her full, albeit meager, height and squared her shoulders.

"I'm Bella, Edward's girlfriend. You must be Kayla. He's told me so much about you." A sickeningly sweet, condescending smile spread over her lips.

Kayla's eyebrow cocked up and she crossed her arms over her chest.

"He has, has he? Then you know that he's already spoken for, and sure and hell doesn't need some trashy little bitch like you hanging around."

"Kayla, stop it," I tried to edge out but was cut off.

"Shut up!" Kayla screeched, having her hand in the air in my direction while never taking her eyes off of Bella.

"Who the hell do you think you are?" Bella questioned, venomously. "You don't talk to him like that!"

"I'll do whatever the fuck I want. What are you going to do about it?" Kayla took two heavy steps toward Bella, in an attempt to be intimidating. And perhaps she would have been to some, but Bella didn't seem fazed at all. Instead she took two steps forward of her own and in a blur of hands connected one dull, heavy punch to the side of Kayla's face.

The redhead crumpled to the floor of my apartment in a heap while the brunette stood over her, seething.

"Get up and get out," Bella hissed, her hands clenched into tight fists at her side.

"Edward," Kayla sobbed. "You…you can't let her do this. You can't let her do this to me. We were just going through a rough patch, you and me. I knew you'd come home eventually, and I thought that if we were just together again that you'd… you'd come to your senses."

She looked up at me, eyes blood shot and red faced, and I almost felt bad for her. She had just gotten punched after all, but then I thought of the months of phone calls, harassment, and general unlivability of my life back in Seattle, all at her hands and I no longer felt bad.

Instead I looked down at her with an amused grin and said, "Sorry Kayla, she's the boss. Now get out."

She gaped at me, completely unable to comprehend what had just happened. I simply smiled and made a motion toward the door which caused her to let out a guttural, wounded sound, gather her things and ran for the door.

Meanwhile, Bella stood rooted to where she stood, her eyes still trained on the spot on the floor previously occupied by Kayla.

"Bella, baby?" I asked gently, taking a hesitant step toward her. "Are you okay?"

"Is she gone?" she whispered.

"Yeah, I think so."

What I heard next was the most perplexing and beautiful sound I'd ever heard; Bella was laughing. It started out as a soft, breathy giggle and quickly evolved into deep belly laughs that made her double over and tears to run down her face.

"That really fucking hurt!" she hiccoughed but continued to laugh.

I started to laugh myself and gathered her into my arms. "I have to admit, that's not exactly how I saw things going but I'll take it."

"What? Didn't think I had it in me?"

"Honestly… no," I chuckled.

She punched me lightly in the arm. "Careful, or you'll be next."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't just a little bit afraid of you now," I said sarcastically. "And little turned on."

Just then there was a knock at my still open front door, followed by a woman's voice.


Bella's face went white.

"I thought you said she was gone."

"She is."

There was the clicking of heels through my front hall and I could feel Bella's body stiffen against me, obviously bracing for the next unwelcome surprise.

"Edward, dear?" I was never so relieved to see my mother in my life. "So you are home. You weren't answering your phone. I had to find my way here from the airport on my own. I guess that serves me right for dropping in unannounced."

"Well hello to you too, Mom." Bella tensed further for a brief moment and then relaxed almost completely.

"Apparently my son has forgotten his manners, I'm Esme Cullen."

Bella took a deep breath and turned around to face the latest addition to the room.

"Mom, this is my girlfriend, Bella," I said confidently, pulling Bella close to my side.

My mother looked confused for the briefest of moments before breaking into an approving smile and patting Bella's hand warmly.

"It's wonderful to meet you, Bella. I can't wait for you to tell me all about yourself."

She pulled my girl away from me and led her over to my new, hardly even used couch to talk but not before giving me a discreet, hopeful nod over her shoulder.

I blew out a long breath, thankful that all the drama seemed to be behind me.

HOLY CRAP ON A CRACKER! ITS OVER! Let me begin by saying thank you to those of you have have stuck with me. I know this fic has been a LONG painstaking process, believe me. I'd like to offer a little bit of an explanation as to why it took so long. When I started this thing, damn over 2 years ago, I was at a crossroads in my life. I started writing as a means of escape. As things took a turn for the better, my writing tapered off because I didn't need that escape anymore, and writing this brought me back to a not so good place that I didn't care to revisit. So I guess in a way that's a good thing, of course that isn't exactly what a reader wants to hear. But I always said I'd finish this no matter what, so here we are.

I've got another fic in progress called "Under My Skin" and I'm starting another as a continuation from my Smut Monday one shot "The One that got Away". I hope you'll follow me there! And if you care to follow me on twitter, you'll find a link in my profile.

You guys are fantastic!