Disclaimer: Of course I own nothing. But the Cullens can boast about how they own me!
A/N: So this isn't my finest chapter… but thank you to my brilliant beta spookymiss for helping me to weed out some of the crap that was in this chapter. Please let me know what you think! The next chapter promises awkward office moments and the exciting introduction of sleazy intrepid reporter, James! Thanks for reading!
Bella was restless for the better part of the night. It didn't help any that the Cullen's house while quite expansive, wasn't exactly soundproof. There were periodic giggles to be heard from both ends of the house throughout most of the night. Bella scowled into the darkness. Virtue to the brim, perhaps, but the boys are clearly not limiting themselves to the couch.
A sudden and uncomfortable pang of jealousy gripped Bella fiercely. Why were Emmett and Jasper clearly not averse to vacating their couches while Edward hadn't even spoken to her since they had turned out the light? Because you've had your back to him the entire time. She sighed audibly and heard Edward stir. She couldn't help but feel the giant pink elephant in the room would only be pinker in the morning. She found herself wishing she still felt the bravado she had felt when they were in the speakeasy and outside on the sidewalk. She ignored the logical thoughts floating in her mind that made it clear she was still capable of such bravado: the alcohol had merely been her catalyst.
Edward drifted in and out of sleep only to be woken sporadically by the giggles of his sister and Rose. He had resisted the urge to vacate his couch countless times since Bella had entered the room. He smiled wryly as he remembered the thoughts she had voiced in her slumber. Of course she would have to talk in her sleep, it only made her more adorable in his eyes. Nothing about knowing Bella Swan was easy for Edward Cullen anymore. His grin grew larger as he pictured the blush that would colour her cheeks when he asked her about her dreams in the morning. With a brother like Emmett, it was impossible she was unaware of her nocturnal mumbling.
The two of them remained awake, both oblivious to the other's state until the giggles finally subsided and the house was left in silence. Bella stretched out on the bed when she realized it had been silent for more than ten minutes and shifted her position so that she could see Edward's sleeping form on the couch across the room. But the light through the sheer curtained windows spilling over his beautiful form made her sit up slightly in his bed.
"Are you restless as well?" His velvet voice whispered across the room to her and she sharply inhaled. Neither of them had fallen asleep?
"I'm not sure I'll be able to fall asleep now without the background noise." She snorted quietly and Edward couldn't help but let out a chuckle at her annoyance. It was his annoyance as well. But not because the noise had prevented him from falling asleep; on the contrary, his annoyance stemmed from the fact that he was unable to engage in giggling with Bella while the others thoroughly enjoyed themselves downstairs.
Bella stared at him while his thoughts ran away on him.
"Is the couch terrible?"
He could see the concern furrow her brow in the light of the moon. He suddenly longed to hold out his finger and smooth the lines away. But he only smiled.
"You are far too concerned about my comfort, Bella. As I said, the couch is fine." He tried to give her a reassuring smile, but the truth was hard to conceal – the couch was uncomfortable because he was on it alone.
In a sudden swell of bravery that she wasn't entirely sure she wouldn't regret later, she patted the space in the bed beside her.
"Fine isn't acceptable."
They were adults… it was the 20's and she knew Edward to be a gentleman. They could share this together without being ashamed. At least, they could if he would respond to her. The longer the silence stretched out in front of them, the more Bella resisted the urge to dive under the blankets from embarrassment.
Edward's expression struggled between shock and pure joy. His thoughts echoed Bella's in terms of responsibility and after all, he was a gentleman. So he threw the blanket off himself, picked up his pillow and quickly closed the gap between the bed and the couch. He stood uncertain beside the bed momentarily while he searched her face for something that would tell him it wasn't okay for them to share the bed. There was nothing but hope to be found.
So he pulled back the covers, settled his pillow and climbed in beside her. They sat awkwardly for a long moment, both propping themselves up against the headboard.
Edward broke the silence first.
"Bella, about earlier..." he trailed off, uncertain how to continue. I want to do that with you forever? Can we try it out again? You have the softest lips known to mankind? He cleared his throat and turned to face her, but her head had drifted slightly to the side and her eyes had closed. Sleeping? Edward watched her chest rise and fall gently for a few moments before he softly whispered her name.
She sighed and slowly looked up at him. Her head snapped to attention when she realized what had happened. Who falls asleep when Edward Cullen is talking to them? She could feel the blush coming and willed it away.
"Oh, Edward. Did I nod off? I'm so sorry… were we talking about something?"
Her gaze was so sheepish he couldn't help but smile at her.
"It wasn't important."
"Okay," she agreed. Not wanting to waste the opportunity that may never present itself to her again, Bella silently summoned a fraction of her courage and rearranged herself so she was snuggled against Edward's side. He slid down from the headboard and settled an arm around her shoulders.
Lightly kissing the top of her head, he laid and listened to her steady breathing until he fell asleep himself.
When he awoke in the morning, Edward stretched his body out and momentarily marveled at how relaxed he felt for having spent the night on his less than cushy sofa. He couldn't help but smile at the memory of the dreams he had had of a sleeping Bella curled against his side. It took until he opened his eyes for him to realize that he was not on his sofa and another moment to realize they had not been dreams. Bella had invited him to share the bed and they had fallen asleep together. His hand shot out beside him but he only found a cool and empty expanse of mattress and sheet.
Where had she gone?
He jumped out of bed and listened at the top of the stairs. The kitchen was noisy with laughter and conversation and the most delicious scents were wafting up to his floor. Hastily cleaning himself up in the bathroom and dressing for the day, Edward made his way downstairs only to find everyone already in the kitchen and Bella cooking breakfast.
Bella smiled widely at Edward when he entered the kitchen and he returned it wholeheartedly. She was standing in front of the stove, removing the final few pieces of bacon from the frying pan. Everyone else was surrounding the kitchen table gorging themselves on Bella's gigantic breakfast.
"Hungry?" She asked him carrying the plate of bacon to the table and taking a seat. Edward slid into the empty one beside her.
"I was beginning to wonder if you were planning to surface at all today, Eddie my boy." Emmett grinned at Edward with his mouth full of eggs and bacon.
Edward grimaced at the sight of Emmett's chewed food and the annoying nickname. He had hoped it would have gotten old by now. But he was hungry and helped himself to the food that adorned the table. It smelled amazing, but then he had always enjoyed Bella's cooking, she was better than Esme. But he would never tell Esme that.
Alice was eyeing him suspiciously while he stuffed his face so he continued to stuff in order to avoid any type of conversation with her. He wanted to discuss things with Bella before they discussed them as a group. He should have known that with Alice and Emmett there would be no chance of that. She continued to stare at him while she spoke.
"So Bella, how did you enjoy your celebration last night?" Her eyes twinkled.
Bella looked frantically from Edward's face to Alice's and then to Emmett's. The pink elephant had joined them. What was she supposed to say? The best part was when Edward and I made out? No, wait. The best part was sleeping in Edward's arms. You know, since I've been in love with him since we moved here. What was your favourite part, Alice? Catching us twice or making me want to throttle you now?
Bella cleared her throat and took a sip of her orange juice rather than respond immediately. She met the eyes of everyone around the table, hoping for some kind of support. Rosalie looked as interested and mischievous as Alice, Emmett was oblivious and Jasper could only give her an apologetic smile. She decided to try avoidance.
"It was the bee's knees, Alice. Thank you for taking me out to celebrate. How did everyone else enjoy themselves?"
Alice was having none of that. The little pixie shook her head fiercely and interrupted anyone else's chance of responding.
"What was your favourite part, Bella?"
Bella tried a new tactic. She looked at Jasper pleadingly and grabbed his wrist for support. Jasper took the not so obvious hint.
"You know Alice, I forgot I had something I wanted to give you… upstairs… it's in the pocket of my jacket. Could you come with me, please?" Jasper rose and tugged at Alice's arms, leaving no room for objection. He hurried her out of the room, but Rosalie was still watching Bella intently. Jasper called to her from upstairs.
"Rose! I also need you to see it!"
Rose smiled like a fox in a chicken coop but stood up to leave anyway. She grabbed Emmett's beefy arm and tugged him out of his chair as well.
"Muh. Rose, I'm still eating!"
Rose deftly scooped his plate up off the table and led him out of the room with it.
Bella was terrified and eager to be alone with Edward at the same time. Edward was ecstatic. His fork trembled in the air between his plate and his mouth while his mind processed what had just happened around them. Alice could be heard squealing from upstairs.
Neither of them spoke right away. The silence was deafening. Suddenly feeling an urge to be doing something, anything other than sitting in painful silence with the boy she had been in love with for five years, Bella rose from the table intending to clear away the dishes. Edward's hand shot out lightning fast and gripped her wrist.
"Wait, Bella." His voice was impossibly soft and musical at the same time. She instantly sat back down in her chair.
"I was… disappointed to realize you weren't… with me, this morning. What happened?" He met her gaze, his green eyes losing themselves in her brown.
She shook her head. So much of last night had a fuzzy quality to it, like it had happened to someone else and she was remembering their description of it. She distinctly remembered waking up this morning impossibly calm and comfortable in the crook of his arm, the rise and fall of his sleeping chest music to her ears. She had been terrified that if she woke him up, he would look at her the way he had every other day of her life before last night. So she had slipped out as quietly as possible and started breakfast for everyone else so her mind had something else occupying it. Hearing that he was actually disappointed that she wasn't still there sent her heart thumping at a million beats a second. She wanted to tell him how hard it had been to leave the room, how she couldn't stop thinking about kissing him but of course, she didn't.
Bella's view of relationships was a little skewed and while no one told her, Renee was to blame. Charlie had been devastated when Renee announced that she was leaving, running away with her boss, the lawyer. It took months for Charlie to smile again and it wasn't until the three of them moved to Chicago for Charlie's well-deserved promotion that Bella and Emmett started to see glimmers of the dad they had known again.
Bella and Emmett had listened from the top of the stairs the night that Renee waited for Charlie to come home from work.
"Honey, I'm home!" Charlie called with a smile in his voice. He never got tired of calling that out after a long day being surrounded by lowlifes and criminals. He hung up his coat and hat and walked down the hallway into the kitchen to kiss his wife on the cheek.
The kitchen light was off and there was no dinner waiting for him in the oven. Confused, he wandered into the living room looking for Bella or Emmett, perhaps Renee had to work late that evening as well. Instead of finding his kids, he found his wife sitting on their bright yellow sofa with her coat on and a suitcase beside her on the floor.
Charlie was instantly suspicious. "Renee, honey? Is something the matter?"
Renee looked at him coldly and stood up. Her hand clutched at her handbag tightly. Charlie noticed they were shaking a little. He moved towards her intending to offer her comfort, something was obviously very wrong. But she shrank away from him, stopping him in his tracks.
"I'm leaving, Charlie." Renee looked at the floor and spoke softly.
Charlie thought he had misheard her. "I'm sorry, you're doing what, dear?"
"I said I'm leaving you, Charlie!" Renee shouted the words now, angry tears glistening in her eyes.
Bella and Emmett had been doing their homework in Emmett's room when they heard the noise downstairs. They shot each other the same look and ran to the top step. Bella moved to continue down the stairs, but Emmett held her arm to stop her. He pulled her down to sit on the steps and listen with him.
"Why Renee? What about the children?" Charlie's face was hard but his eyes gave away his pain, his hurt.
Renee looked away from his face and stared at her hands.
"I can't live this way anymore, Charlie. We're strangers to each other. You work later and later every night… the kids are almost grown, they'll be going away to college soon… getting married, starting their own families. I need something else, Charlie. Phil and I –"
Charlie's anger broke to the surface. "The LAWYER? Your BOSS? You're running away with PHIL?"
Bella cowered into Emmett's shoulder and he pulled her against him, into one of his giant bear hugs.
Renee was silent for a few minutes while Charlie continued to process the information that his wife was leaving them for the lawyer whose office she was a part time secretary in.
"What about the children? Bella and Emmett will be broken hearted, Renee. Have you told them already or were you just going to disappear into the night and never look back?"
Renee's shoulders stiffened and her chin jutted out angrily. "Bella will come with me, Charlie. Once I'm settled at Phil's place… Bella can move in too, there's the cutest little bedroom for her overlooking the garden…"
"Emmett… will be happier here, Charlie. With you." Renee's voice was softer now. Charlie wondered if it was partly because speaking the plans out loud helped her realize what she was doing – tearing apart their family.
Bella broke away from Emmett's embrace and ran down the stairs into their living room. The cheerful décor of bright colours, family portraits and souvenirs from family trips were mocking her now, fuelling her anger.
"I will not go with you! I live HERE!" Bella shouted at her mother, angry tears spilling down both cheeks. Renee's eyes were wide with shock at Bella's words. They had never fought. Bella hardly ever raised her voice at all, to anyone in the family.
Emmett appeared at the doorway after Bella, his mouth set in an angry line. He avoided looking directly at his mother.
"Bella, honey, it will be okay. You'll see… You'll like Phil, he's a wonderful man and you can visit Charlie and Emmett any time you'd like." Renee moved to embrace her daughter, but Bella moved back behind Emmett who slipped his arm around her protectively.
Charlie watched his daughter and wife's interaction silently. "Don't you see what you're doing, Renee? This is your family." He moved to stand in the doorway with his children placing his hand on Bella's shoulder, over Emmett's own hand.
"These are your children. Your flesh and blood, Renee!"
But Renee only shook her head as she stared at the three of them. To her, they had been ignoring her for too long, too involved in their own lives and jobs to notice her anymore. She was only visible to them when it was time to eat. What she couldn't see was that she had removed herself from their lives long before. Taking the secretary position had been her excuse to stay away from the house altogether.
Emmett hadn't spoken since he and Bella had sat on the stairs. He had no intention of changing that now. He gave his sister's shoulder a squeeze, looked his father in the eyes and made his way back up the stairs.
He disappeared into his room and Bella ran up the stairs after him. Charlie went into the kitchen and started to make himself a sandwich for dinner.
Renee was left alone in the living room of the family she had destroyed. She turned and strode out the door, picking up her suitcase and marching down the front steps. She didn't turn around once.
Bella remembered it like it had happened only minutes ago rather than years. Renee had sent her letters every week, but Bella never opened a single one. Emmett told her to throw them away every time they came in the mail, but Bella couldn't. She was too angry with Renee to read letters that were no doubt filled with tales of her new life with Phil. But she had loved what she remembered of her mother from before that night so fiercely that she kept them all in a box. When they moved to Chicago, Bella never passed along her new address and the letters stopped completely. Her parents had been married for almost twenty years when Renee started her affair with the lawyer. Bella's only real example of love had ended in tears and anger.
She could never tell Edward how she really felt about him. Loving him from afar kept her heart protected.
Tears sprang to her eyes as she thought of what she would be giving up. Even if he did care for her now, what was going to stop him from leaving her some day?
She couldn't bear that.
The tears spilled over and Bella ran from the kitchen, up the stairs and locked herself in the bathroom.
Edward ran after her.
They both had to run past the open door of Alice's bedroom where Alice, Jasper, Emmett and Rose were sprawled across Alice's bed. They looked puzzled as Bella flew past them down the hallway and heard the bathroom door slam. They all ran out into the hallway just as Edward reached the top step. They stared at him with open mouths.
"What happened, Edward?" Alice looked from the bathroom door to her brother's face. "Please tell me she's in the bathroom crying tears of absolute joy."
Edward shook his head morosely and looked at his sister.
"I don't know what happened, Alice. We were only talking… suddenly Bella started to cry and ran out of the kitchen. Emmett, I'm sorry, I don't know what I did."
Emmett clapped his best friend on the shoulder. "It's not you, kid. It's what you could be. Gimme a bit, I'll straighten it out."
Emmett pounded on the bathroom door that his sister was hiding behind. "Let me in little sister or I'll huff and I'll puff…"
Bella didn't answer, but the door swung open silently. Emmett slipped his beefy self inside and closed it behind him. Bella was perched on the side of the bathtub, wiping tears from her face. Her big brother wordlessly embraced her and smoothed out her mane of hair.
"Emmett," Bella whined. "What should I do?"
Her big brother sighed a hefty sigh and laughed. Bella was not impressed. She was sobbing in the bathroom at the Cullen's house and he was laughing at her.
"First you need to come over here," He pulled her off the bathtub and stood her infront of the mirror over the sink. "And then you need to tell me what you see in the mirror."
"Are you still tanked, Emmett? I see us in the mirror." Bella's brow furrowed and her mouth turned down in a frown. She angrily wiped the rest of the tears from her cheeks and took a tissue to wipe away the black smeers of mascars. Damn Alice for dolling me up this morning.
Emmett shook her shoulders gently as he laughed. "I'm fine Bella. So maybe you'll understand this question better. Who don't you see?"
Bella still didn't understand what her big brother was trying to show her. It was her and her brother. No one else was in the mirror. Who wouldn't I see?
"This is baloney, Emmett. I need you to help me with Edward, not play these games with me."
Emmett mentally sighed at his dim-witted little sister.
"You aren't mom, Bella. And Edward isn't mom. What you two kids could have won't be what Renee and Charlie had. Don't run away from him before you even know what it's like to be with him."
Bella didn't speak, she only stared at their reflections. She did wonder though, when Emmett had become so much more emotionally mature than she was.
"I know, I'm just your big brute of a big brother, Bells. The football player with more muscle than heart. But I'm still your big brother, and I'll always look out for you. And Edward was always my first choice for you."
At that, Bella whirled around and rounded on her brother.
"Your first choice for me? What makes you think you have the chance to weigh in on who I'm going to date?" There was an indignant tone in her voice, but her mouth twitched up in a playful smile.
Emmett snatched her up in a hug.
"Because it's my fist that has to break their pretty noses, that's what."
Bella giggled and there was a knock on the door. Emmett went to open the door, but Bella cringed in fear.
"Wait, Emmett! I don't know what to—"
"It's Alice, Bella. Are you okay? You've been in there for a little while now…"
Emmett swung open the door and threw a wink at the tiny girl in the hallway. Alice smiled and pushed past him into the bathroom.
"Oh, Bella!" She gushed and wrapped her tiny arms around her best friend's waist. "What happened? Do I need to break my brother's nose?"
Bella only giggled and hugged her friend back. Alice pulled her out of the bathroom where Jasper and Rose were waiting with Emmett and a crazed looking Edward.
Jasper gave her an annoyed look but walked forward to hug her lightly and whisper in her ear.
"I had to give Alice her anniversary present early to give you time alone. You owe me – now she expects another one on the actual day of." He laughed quietly. "You owe me two, now…" Speaking louder and pulling away from Bella he looked at Alice. "Do you want to see how they sparkle in the sunlight? Let's all take a walk around the block."
Alice squealed the same high-pitched squeal Bella had heard from her room earlier. Alice thrust her earlobe in Bella's line of vision. There was a rather large and beautifully cut diamond earring adorning each of her ears. And then it was gone.
Suddenly Bella and Edward were alone again. And without thinking twice, Bella flung herself at him, letting her hands roam wherever they pleased. His mouth was hard at first, his body rigid from surprise. Bella would be the death of him with her bold advances and unexplained retreats.
Quickly he realized who he held in his arms and they melted into one another, their kiss deepening into something filled with passion and need. Bella pushed her body against his and his hands moved down her body, one resting firmly at the small of her back and the other moving beneath the hem of her skirt to grip her thigh. She moaned into his mouth and he moved his lips across her jawline and down her neck. She lost her hands in his perfectly messy bronze hair.
"This will certainly make working at the paper more exciting." Bella breathed as Edward's cool kisses continued along her collarbone.
He lifted his mouth briefly to respond. "The Arts and Life section will never be the same. But idle office gossip doesn't concern me, I promise to remain professional… until we close my office door." His kisses contined up the other side of her neck and back across her jawline. His mouth was forming over hers when she suddenly pulled away.
"What do you mean – idle office gossip? We won't be working together… surely people will be happy for us?"
Edward cool breath blew into her face as he spoke and she struggled to concentrate on their conversation rather than the fact they were no longer kissing.
"Well I'm certain there will be some gossip with the new columnist dating her editor—"
"Her EDITOR?" And Bella's mind quickly flashed to a nameplate she had stared at only yesterday. Edward Cullen, Arts & Life Editor.
Edward Cullen was her new boss.