A Talk between Two Fathers

[Thank you so much for the reviews. I'm so glad that other fans folks enjoyed this. This is the last, very short chapter to wind things up. As always, many thanks to Ms. Meyer for her great stories- Take care, Kelli]

Chapter 9. A Family Meeting

Edward Cullen

Esme has never been a speed demon, like the rest of us. She left the diner and drove at a sedate rate all the way back to our house. She didn't even have Bella's excuse of a ratty old truck. I restrained my impatience as I followed her. I'd never embarrass Esme by racing past her. I had to grin when I saw Jasper's fingers beating out a rapid tattoo on his knee; he was just as impatient as I was.

Carlisle and the rest of the family were waiting at the dining room table. He got up to welcome Esme and seat her beside him. Jasper slid into a chair beside Alice and I took my usual seat at Carlisle's left side.

"Alice has been keeping us informed," Carlisle said. He was smiling as he looked at Esme. "Well done. Alice said you defanged Charlie's arguments very neatly."

"Defanged?" Emmett laughed out loud. "Good one, Carlisle."

"Jasper helped a great deal," Esme said. She leaned forward. "Thank you. You gave Charlie time to think instead of just letting himself get angry."

Jasper ducked his head. "My pleasure."

"What do you think, Jasper?" Carlisle asked. "Is Charlie going to keep trying to find some way to vilify Edward?"

Jasper hesitated. I understood why. Our gifts made us more than familiar with the way humans think, how they felt. That didn't mean we understood them. In most cases, we could guess accurately what a human would do in most situations, but we were well aware that every human had deep-seated emotional triggers that could make them act unpredictably.

"Charlie was feeling resigned when Esme left." Jasper hesitated again. "I'd guess that he's run into enough walls at this point not to pursue this further."

"Any suggestions for a follow through based on your investigation effort?" Carlisle asked. "Not that there's been much time for that."

"Learned a lot about how to run information down." Jasper shook his head. "It's the execution that's a problem. Most of the work has to do with tailing suspects to see their contacts, see what they're doing. I'd have problems being inconspicuous following the chief around in such a small town in a car. While I could track him on foot, our limitations during the daylight hours would keep me from getting close enough to see or hear what he's doing."

"Besides," I added, "the locals are protective of each other. No one is going to discuss the chief with a Cullen. It's not as if we're incognito here. It's more than likely that word would get back to Charlie that Jasper's been asking questions about him."

"Trying to find out what research he's doing on the Internet is tough," Jasper said. "Bella has the only computer at their home. Edward says Charlie's never used it. His online access appears to be limited to his work computer. Hacking into the police station's servers isn't something I can do. Hiring someone to do it has the same issues as hiring Jenk's office to do it. We'd need to hire criminals, leaves us vulnerable to blackmail."

"While I can read minds, I haven't overheard Charlie thinking about his plans to discredit me while we're at his house," I offered. "During the day, the police station is too far away for me to hear him from school."

"Then I guess we'll just to have to hope that Jasper's right. That Esme-" Carlisle leaned over and kissed her cheek, "convinced him to end this. Just in case, Jasper and Alice have put some contingency plans for us in case we have to move in a hurry. Alice?"

"Nothing's changed," Alice said.

"Good."

"Are you going to tell Bella what her father's been doing?" Rose asked.

Just like Rose. Always eager to cause problems. I shrugged. "I don't see any reason to upset Bella by telling her about it. After all, it was just a couple of meetings. Nothing happened."

Rose frowned, obviously unhappy with my answer. No surprise there.

"Does anyone have anything else?" Carlisle asked. After a moment when one responded, he stood up. "Then until the next crisis, let's adjourn the meeting."

As eager as I was to get back to Bella, I hesitated. I'd apologized before, but it felt inadequate. I couldn't help feeling guilty. This was my fault. My need for Bella had dragged us into this mess. Then calm replaced my guilt.

I speared a hard look at Jasper. He shrugged.

You couldn't help falling in love with Bella. No more than I could have stopped myself from falling in love with Alice. Everything you've done since then has been for Bella's sake. We understand.

I grimaced at his thoughts. I wasn't quite that selfless. Especially when you considered my trip to Italy and all the consequences that hung over us even now. "Thank you, Jasper. For everything."

Another shrug. A slight smile. Then he was gone. Headed for Alice.

Time for me to go to Bella. Maybe Charlie would be willing to have a conversation with me instead of just growl at me.

Stranger things had happened.