Oh. My. Jilly Wigs!

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There is reference to domestic violence in this chapter – please be warned…

Chapter 32: A Safe Place

My hotel suite seemed to have become my own personal hell on earth.

I was alone, empty and desperate for the woman that I loved. The woman that I loved who I knew I had hurt so much.

Why was I such a fucking idiot?

I flinched again as the look of shock, anger and pain that had crossed her beautiful face, flashed behind my eyelids again.

The dark part of my brain at this point was dancing and sneering at me.

Mission accomplished you fuck up.

Bella hates you.

Family alienated.

Job well done, Cullen, you might yet become what you fear and hate most.

I brought my knees up closer to my chest to try and cover the large gaping hole that had appeared there and pushed my face into the t-shirt that Bella had left the night before, trying to push that little thought as far back as I could. I wouldn't become that, I screamed in my head. I was strong. I was a better fucking person than that.

Bella had helped me become a better person.

And look what I gave her in return…

I breathed in her scent off the t-shirt feeling it make my stomach twist and turn with need.

I needed her here.

I needed her now.

I needed her fucking always.

I was a selfish, motherfucker too, but that was hardly a new goddamn development.

I glanced at the clock through my blurry, tired eyes.

4:15am.

Had it only been 4 hours since I had made everyone I love hate me with my bitch fit and loss of control?

Begrudgingly, I let my mind wander back over the whole night, retracing my thought processes, my fear, my panic and finally the anger that I felt towards the fuck-wit that had put his hands on my Bella.

I had never experienced an emotion like it.

It was a feral jealousy mixed with a rage so raw that it scared even me. I wanted to kill him. I would have killed him. No wonder Bella had recoiled from me so completely. I was a fucking animal, a disgusting animal that deserved nothing from her.

My body felt exhausted by it. The adrenaline high had disappeared almost entirely when I had realised what I was doing. Emmett's grip on my arm had woken me from the haze of utter fury that burned under my skin. There was no excuse for my behaviour, none whatsoever. Natural caveman instinct to protect what was mine just didn't seem like a valid enough reason for behaving like a fucking lunatic.

I rolled onto my back with a groan, staring at the ceiling, holding Bella's t-shirt against my chest.

Lying in the unfamiliar bed with the unfamiliar sounds coming through the window – the only thing I could think of was the familiar feel of Bella next to me.

Her smell. Her taste.

I needed and wanted them so fucking much it made my whole body ache.

But that, I was starting to see, was the problem.

I needed her too much in every way. My body yearned for her all the time. Whether it is to make love or to simply hold her, I couldn't seem to get a grip on the new shit that my body was experiencing.

I'd told Jasper that I had simply been existing before Bella and that was true.

She had, in the short time that I had known her, taught me to live and I had embraced it wholeheartedly. I wanted to live. I wanted to live for her. I wanted us to live together, literally and metaphorically.

But I knew that that was a silly, ambitious, crazy want. I had known her for four weeks for fuck's sake.

Four long ass weeks of temptation, denial and then finally, complete acceptance of what I wanted and needed.

Her. Bella.

But having never experienced this before, I had no idea how to channel my emotions. They all seemed to blast the fuck out of me with a power I wasn't even aware my heart was capable of.

And it was too much.

For her.

And for me.

My need for Bella was so much that my body had started to feel actual physical pain when she wasn't near me.

That was fucked up.

I had become to depend on her being near me all the time and I knew that for my body and mind to go from having nothing to everything all at once, that the consequences were making themselves known. I had to learn to control myself and my feelings for both our sakes. I was just so desperate to cling onto to her in any way that the danger of hurting us both was all too apparent.

I couldn't help but start to consider the fuck awful truth of what could have happened if Emmett had not stopped me in time. What if Bella had tried to stop me? Could I have hurt her? What if I had hurt her physically? My stomach twisted in on itself at the thought. I would rather subject myself to a life of searing pain and suffering than hurt Bella, but the truth was I was so far gone in my need to protect her that my control over my own body had slipped.

Jesus, what I could have done to her…

I grabbed the hair at the sides of my head and took a deep breath. The only way that I could start to cope with what was going on in my head was to talk to Bella.

I had to let her know what I was thinking, feeling. I had to try and make her understand what a fucked up asshole I really was. Even if she hated me and never wanted to see me again, I heaved at the thought, I had to at least try and make her see why I behaved the way I did.

I had told her that I loved her but the truth was that she really had no idea just how much. It was a chest crushing, desperate, obsessive, I cant live without you or I'll surely fucking die kind of love that had claimed me.

I was desperately, obsessively in love with her and she needed to know that.

She needed to know everything.

She needed to know why I was so afraid to love her initially. She needed to know why I was determined to keep her at arms length by being such a nasty bastard to her. I needed her to know that with my love, the dark part of me had become more prominent and that that fact scared me shitless. She needed to know about the darkness that lurked in me even if it did make her hate me further.

I needed her to know because the thought of keeping the feelings I was having tied up for as long as she was with me, made me feel physically sick.

She had found the strength to come to my door, hurt and crying and I didn't have the courage to face her.

Her strength was something that I was continually underestimating. She was so much stronger than me and I knew that that strength would be my aid in my confessions to her. I needed her strength to lean on, to use to get us both through whatever this was.

I laughed sarcastically into the dark, empty room as I considered what a weak fucker I really was. If I had to ask Bella for one last thing before she retreated from me in complete disgust then it would be to listen and try to understand.

Part of me knew that she would. Part of me knew that she loved me completely and unconditionally. But part of me was also shit scared that the truth would be too much to bear, that my real feelings for her would be too much that they would suffocate her like they were doing to me.

No, I shook my head as I brought the t-shirt to my face once more. I had to have faith in her, in her love and in her strength.

I reached into my pocket to retrieve my cell phone and switched it on. After receiving the text from Bella I had turned it off knowing that I needed to clear my head without distraction. I was right to do so. My phone beeped continually with the backlog of texts that had collected while it was off.

I glanced at the clock again.

4:45am.

I scrolled through the text messages, feeling my heart collapse when I discovered there were no more from Bella. The majority were from Alice.

Edward please let her in.

I closed my eyes and swallowed hard as I felt the familiar wave of regret wash over me. I should have fucking let her in. I should have explained my reactions. Alice knew better than anyone how I would always retreat into myself instead of facing my problems, like a man, head on. Honestly, I thought that I had gotten over that shit when I had told Bella about my relationship with James and what had happened.

But here I was alone and closed off once again, behaving like the weak pussy I always knew I was.

The second text made my lungs squeeze hard in my chest;

She needs reassurance, Edward. Come and talk to her – please. Love you. Alice.

I knew that 4 hours ago there was no way that I could have reassured anyone, not even myself. I was losing myself again and I needed Bella to help me find a way back.

Alice it seemed had started to lose her patience.

Edward, you need to get your head the fuck out of your ass and face her. She understands. You underestimate her.

I smiled in spite of myself. Alice was right. I did need to get my head out of my ass and yes, I did underestimate Bella. But the part of the text that made my heart beat a little faster was the part that told me that Bella understood.

Did she really? Had Alice said something to her?

I pushed my hand through my hair. No, Alice wouldn't have said anything to her. She had told me how proud she was that I had opened up to Bella at all, there was no way that she would tell Bella what she so desperately wanted me to tell her on my own. That was my shit to tell and she knew it.

I remembered the day that I had thrown Alice out of my apartment when she had come to try and rescue me from myself. I had said such evil, nasty things to her.

Things that made her cry and hit me, not that I didn't deserve anything less.

Since becoming clean I had always made a point of trying to earn her forgiveness for all that I had done. She had told me on several occasions that she knew it wasn't the real me that had said those things to her and that she forgave me the minute I came home but I knew that that wasn't an excuse and it didn't stop me from continually trying to make that shit up to her.

The text had been sent at 3:30. Maybe she was still awake.

I took a deep breath and started typing.

I'm ready, Alice, but I need your help. Is she awake?

Her reply was almost instant.

Thank fuck…

Anything, Edward. She's awake now.

I exhaled a breath through my nose at the thought of Bella staying awake because of me. She would have been worried, afraid and confused. I once again thanked God that Alice was with her and cursed my selfish fucking choices.

After asking my favour of Alice I got up from the bed and pulled my sweater and shirt over my head. I grabbed a grey t-shirt and my black hoodie, slipped my phone in my pocket and headed out the door.

The lobby of the hotel was quiet. As I exited the elevator I pulled my hood up, put my head down and my hands in my pockets and walked out into the cold air. I took in a deep breath and set off down the street. If I was going to do this shit then it had to be on neutral ground.

Plus, I was going seriously fucking stir crazy in the hotel suite.

The sky was still dark but it wouldn't be long until the sun came up. I crossed the road and made my way over to the large wrought iron Edinburgh gate of Hyde Park. I glanced at my watch at the same time that I heard the chiming of the arrival of 5am. A man of about 40 walked up to the gates with the largest set of keys I had ever seen. Punctual to a fault.

He eyed me warily as he unlocked the padlock and pushed the gates open. I smiled a tight lipped smile and leaned casually against a small wall, taking another deep breath to try and calm my heart that was thumping in my chest.

It would be fine, it was the right thing to do, she would understand…

I was disturbed out of my mantra by the sound of approaching footsteps followed by the clearing of a throat. I closed my eyes briefly before looking up to my right to see Bella standing, hands clasped in front of her, her lip wedged firmly between her teeth.

I breathed in deeply as I let my eyes wander over her. Her hair was pulled back into a loose ponytail, with soft tendrils that hung limply around her face.

She is so goddamn beautiful…

And I am such a fucking idiot.

She was wearing dark jeans and a brown hooded sweat shirt that seemed at least 10 sizes too big for her that had the words Chicago 1983 emblazoned on the front. It took me a minute to realise, through the city name and the year of my birth, that it was mine. She looked tired, anxious and the redness of her eyes suggested she had been crying for hours.

Satisfied, Cullen, you fucking monster…?

I wanted nothing more than to throw my arms around her and kiss away all the hurt that she felt but I had to hold back. Now was the time for talking, if she still wanted me after I had told her everything, and I hoped to fucking Christ like the selfish shit I was then I would happily hold her until she told me to stop.

I clenched my fists in my pockets as the urge swept through me like a tsunami.

"Bella," I whispered as her eyes met mine.

She nodded slowly and tucked her hands in the front pouch of the sweat shirt. I pushed off the wall slowly and took a step towards her. "Thank you for coming," I murmured looking down at my boots, still unable to look her fully in the eye knowing how much I'd upset her.

"Of course," she answered quietly. Her voice made the hair on the back of my neck stand up and my heart crash wildly in my chest. I looked to the park and back to my feet.

"Will you walk with me?" I asked, waiting for her refusal, ready to accept whatever words of anger she had ready for me. I'd take them all. I deserved nothing less.

"Yes," she said through a thick throat.

I looked at her in wonder. I didn't deserve her. There was no way that she was meant to be with me. How could there be someone like her for a motherfucker like me?

I moved towards her and nodded slowly towards the park entrance. She moved ahead of me slightly and I followed closely behind. The park was just starting to wake up. Birds flitted from tree to tree singing and cawing as we passed beneath them. I walked slowly at Bella's side trying to get all my words in the right order in my head so that she would understand without confusion or question.

Having been to Hyde Park numerous times before, I knew exactly where I wanted to take her to. She followed me step for step never speaking, her eyes focused on her feet and the surrounding trees. I heard her take a small in take of breath as we walked out at the side of The Serpentine. It was still and peaceful apart from the occasional rustle of leaves and the sound of our feet on the loose stones, as I led her to a bench at the waters edge.

She sat next to me still quiet, still waiting for me to start.

I leaned back against the bench and exhaled, watching my breath come out as a grey mist that dissolved as quickly as it appeared.

"I'm so, so fucking sorry, Bella," I whispered looking out at the water.

The sky had lightened slightly and the ripples that were caused by the gentle wind were now visible.

"I never meant to make you feel scared or hurt. I never meant to behave the way that I did." I took a deep breath and glanced at her out of the corner of my eye. She had her legs pulled up to her chest with her left cheek resting on her left knee, gazing at me intently.

I smiled gently as I took her in.

"I wanted you to come here with me so that I could try and explain why I reacted that way."

I sighed again feeling the anxiety of getting the words out rise in my throat. She nodded slowly. I loved that she seemed to know that I needed her to just simply listen. I needed this moment to explain without her interrupting my words.

She pulled her legs closer to her chest and blinked at me slowly for me to continue.

"My mother," I began. "My birth mother I mean was murdered by my father when I was six years old."

The words came out in such a rush that I almost didn't hear the small whimper that came from Bella. I breathed in as I realised that I'd said it. It had been a long fucking time since I had spoken about my life before Carlisle and Esme and I felt a small weight lift from my chest.

I cleared my throat and continued as I looked out, watching a white swan glide across the water.

"My father was a drunk; a nasty one. He'd drink maybe, a bottle of Scotch a day and then collapse out cold on the sofa. It was very rare that he'd make it to his bed." I grimaced as I remembered trying to lift him off the bathroom floor as my mother cleaned up the vomit, piss and shit that he'd be lying in. "Sometimes, when the Scotch ran out and he was still a way from unconsciousness he would pick a fight with my mother. It would always be about inconsequential, utterly ridiculous fucking things like the fact that she had bought a different type of sugar or different coloured refuse sacks than normal."

I laughed dryly at the fucking insanity of the battles that they had over the kind of toothpaste he wanted her to buy. "It started with pushing and shoving. He'd push her and she'd shove him back."

I looked to Bella quickly. "He didn't like it when she did that."

The truth was he always went fucking ape shit if she retaliated in any way.

"But my mother was strong." I smiled at the memory of my mother's tenacity. "She took what he gave her, even when what he gave her turned into his fists, his shoes or his belts."

I looked down at my feet as I leaned forward, resting my elbows on my knees. I could see her, my mother. Green eyes, like mine, shoulder length auburn hair that hung with a wave around a heart shaped face. She was beautiful, slight and had a laugh that sounded like water hitting stones down a river.

That was the hardest thing to recall however, her laugh, as it happened so infrequently.

"I remember after being dropped off home late from school one evening," I continued, staring at the sky, "to find her collecting pieces of china off of the floor in the kitchen." I cleared my throat as my anger began to rise in my chest.

"She'd served him his dinner on the wrong plate so he thought that, in order for her to remember the next time, he would throw the entire dinner set at her, using her for target practise." I felt my fists clench harder in my pockets as I saw her bloodied hands and lips and the look of complete desolation that crossed her bruised face as her six year old son helped her to pick the pieces of plate up from the floor.

"Edward." I looked up at her, grimacing at her swollen eyes and lips. Her heart shaped face was broken. "We can't let him win." Her hand grasped mine against the cold floor as she rasped again, "We can't let him win."

"Ok, Mama," I answered.

After we had put all that was left of the plates in the trash, I soaked a cloth in warm salt water and bathed my mother's face. I sat on her knee, gently stroking her battered skin, apologising for every wince and flinch that she made as the white towel wiped the dry blood away.

"Mama," I whispered.

"Yes, sweetheart," my mother answered with painful smile.

"Why does he do this?"

She looked at me and pushed her hand through my hair, "because he can't express himself any other way, baby." I looked at her curiously. "He has a lot of hate and anger inside of him and the only way it can come out is by him fighting against everyone he loves."

I frowned at her words completely confused. Surely if he loved her he wouldn't hurt her. "Does he love you?"

She looked down at her hands and for the first time ever, I saw my mother cry. "In his own way, Edward, he loves us both very much."

I shook my head in defiance. "I don't love him," I snapped, twisting the white towel in my hands.

My mother grabbed the tops of my arms and turned me to face her. "He is your father, Edward, and you will respect him. No matter what he does to me you remember that." I pushed her away from me, threw the towel down and ran from her.

"I'll never love him," I shouted as I slammed my door shut to my room.

The birds singing above us brought me back from my memory.

"That was the last time I saw my mother alive," I whispered, feeling the heat in my eyes start to build. "My father came back home that night and beat her so hard with his feet and bare hands that he ruptured her kidney, spleen, broke six ribs puncturing her lung, her jaw, her right arm above the elbow and her eye socket."

I rhymed off her injuries the way the doctor had rhymed them to the police officer that had escorted me to the hospital the night that she died.

'Ruthless…monstrous…sadistic…' he had said as he glanced down at me with an expression that told me that I was now completely alone in the world.

"The bleeding in her brain was what killed her." My vision blurred. "He was just too fucking strong for her." My throat tightened. "She couldn't fight him off." My voice disappeared as my sentence ended. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath through my nose and let it out slowly through my pursed lips. As I opened them I glanced again at Bella.

I furrowed my brow when I saw the tears sliding down her cheeks, dampening the denim of her jeans.

"I was adopted by Carlisle and Esme not six months later. I suppose adoption is easy when you know people." I smiled, "and my father was charged with voluntary manslaughter."

I laughed darkly at the utter fucking joke that was the sentence the motherfucker was given.

A heat of passion killing…

Passion? There was nothing fucking passionate about what he did. Ruthless…monstrous…sadistic…

I heard Bella take a quick breath in and I looked at her with an incredulous smirk.

"My mother tried to defend herself with a knife," I explained, "and managed to stab him in the shoulder and thigh. He claimed that she attacked him first and he hit her in self defence." I coughed an exasperated laugh out of my chest. Even after all this time it still made my blood boil to an excruciating degree that the fucker had gotten away with taking my mother from me.

"The truth is, Bella, is that I had stayed in my room with my pillow over my head." I dropped my face to my hands. "If I'd gotten up," I murmured. "I would have been a witness. I could have helped put him away for murder." I looked at Bella and shook my head, "but I was too scared to see what he was…" I left my train of thought and leaned back against the bench.

"He was released twelve years later, just as I was starting college." I pushed my hands through my hair underneath my hood. "Twelve fucking years," I whispered.

It was an insult to her. He deserved to burn for what he did.

"He wrote me a letter, telling me that he wanted to get to know me that he wanted to be the father he knew he could be." I pushed my hands into the pockets of my hoddie, knowing that should I ever be in a room alone with the cunt, he would never come out of it alive.

"His letter just made me realise what I had tried to forget. That part of me came from someone who was a monster, who was evil, that part of me would always be evil too. I met James and he just knew so many ways to take the pain away that I couldn't help but follow his lead. I was looking for a way out." I lowered my voice, "a way to get away from…everything, including my family."

I didn't need to explain what had happened with Alice, she already knew about that.

I sighed and raised my face up to the now indigo sky. The birds were now in full dawn chorus and the sounds of London coming to life could be heard in the distance. I closed my eyes and felt the hurt and shame wash over me. It was nowhere near as heavy as it used to be but it was there nonetheless. I knew deep down that I would never be rid of it but I'd also learnt, through the brief therapy I had had, that that was ok.

If it was the only way that I could remember my mother then I was happy to deal with it.

"The reason I've told you this, Bella, is to try and explain why I behaved so fucking atrociously tonight."

I turned slowly and pushed my leg through the gap in the bench so that I was straddling it. Bella didn't move. Her tears were now dry and her eyes watched me carefully.

I took a deep breath and looked her square in the eye. I had tried to prepare myself for her dismissal, for her to tell me what a dip shit she really thought I was. It would hurt like fuck and I would never recover but I wouldn't blame her for her decision.

"I love you, Bella," I whispered. "I love you so much that sometimes I can't hold it in."

I pushed my hands to my stomach. "I've never experienced anything like it. It is the most amazing, wonderful thing, Bella, but sometimes it scares the living shit out of me."

She raised her head from her knee, her eyes still fixed on mine. "I love you, want you and need you more than I've ever needed anything. It crushes me sometimes, so much that I find it hard to breathe. You are so precious to me, Bella that if anything happened to you…fuck."

I trailed off shaking my head and glanced down at my hands that were gripping the wood of the bench, feeling the utter terror raise in my throat at the thought of anyone hurting her.

"I don't know what I would do," I finished quietly.

She didn't reply and my heart thumped nervously in my chest.

"Do you remember what I said to you before we left for the rap party that night?"

She looked at me before lowering her eyes to my hands on the bench. She nodded slowly.

"You said that you would look after me, that you would protect me," she answered.

I nodded and smiled sarcastically.

"I didn't do such a great job of that, did I?"

"Edward," she breathed but I shook my head for her to stop.

"Christ, I was so in love with you even then, Bella," I admitted with a more genuine smile. "And when I saw what James was doing to you." I clenched my teeth. "I wanted to kill him."

I said the word as if it tasted bad in my mouth and the truth was that it did. It tasted vengeful, bitter and angry and I fucking hated it.

She exhaled a shaky breath and moved slowly so that she was now facing me, her knees still held to her chest.

"I just want to make sure you're safe, Bella, all the time and I know that, that is impossible." I looked at her to show that I truly did. "But those guys…I heard them, Bella, in the bathroom." I closed my eyes. "The way they spoke about you…"

I took a deep breath. "I couldn't let what happened with James happen again. I just saw red, I had to stop them, no matter what," I grimaced as I remembered the look on Bella's face as I swung for the prick that'd touched her. "But your face, Bella…"

My voice cracked and my eyes blurred. "You looked so hurt, and…so fucking scared of me. You looked like…how she used to look at him…when he would…" I couldn't finish.

The tears came then, hard and continuous and I didn't fucking care.

My breath couldn't leave my lungs fast enough and I slapped my hands to my face, gulping and sobbing into my palms until I felt her small arms wrap around my neck and her warm body sit across me and all the air I had in me left me in a loud whoosh.

She kissed the tears on my cheeks frantically and nuzzled my neck over and over.

"You're not him, Edward," she whispered against my ear, tears wracking her own voice.

The sound that came from my throat at her words was almost a strangled cry as I threw my arms around her and pulled her to me. She moved further up me trying to get as close to me as she could, burying her head in my neck as I buried mine in her hair, breathing her in.

"I'm so sorry, baby," I murmured, between sobs. "I should have let you in and I'm so fucking sorry. Please forgive me," I pleaded, "please, Bella...fuck…please tell me you forgive me, please."

She pulled from me and cupped my face in her hands. She looked at me as if I was crazy.

"Edward Cullen," she whispered and I felt my heart flutter in my chest. "I love you more than I ever thought I could love anyone. I want and need you." She smiled gently, "always. There is nothing to forgive, baby, I love you."

As God is my fucking witness the Earth fucking stood still at that exact moment.

My lips crashed against hers and my hands wound into her hair holding her to me. She sighed into my mouth, her lips wet from her tears and mine. She felt and tasted so good. My heart thumped in my chest and my breath left me quicker than I could take it in.

I pulled my lips from her, resting my forehead against hers and held her body to me, breathing her in.

"I love you," I whispered before kissing her again. "Jesus, I love you so much…so much."

My Bella, my beautiful Bella…

I slowly opened my eyes to see the sun rising over the tops of the trees.

* * * *

"It's all about balance," she said quietly as we walked back into the suite.

I closed the door behind her before grabbing her hand in mine and walked to the sofa. She sat down as I unzipped my hoodie and threw it over the back of the chair. I sat next to her taking her hands in mine on my lap.

"I know," I answered. "I need to start learning how to control all this shit that I'm feeling, Bella." Her thumb grazed the back of my hand. "My mind and body just reacts to you in ways that I can't handle at times."

She smiled at me and raised her eyebrows suggestively.

"See that," I pointed at her chuckling, "that right fucking there does not help the situation!"

She leaned to me and kissed me softly on the cheek.

"I know I'm sorry." She smiled, blushing slightly. "You just need to know that I want you too."

"I know, baby," I answered letting my fingertips slide down the side of her face. "But you need to know that going from feeling nothing to everything all at once has left my head rammed securely up my ass."

She laughed lightly but nodded in agreement.

"I understand, Edward," she kissed my knuckle. "It does sometimes all feel a little overwhelming, doesn't it?"

"Mmhm," I answered watching her. She was here, with me and I couldn't believe what a lucky shit I really was.

I pulled her so that she was sat on my knee, her head tucked under my chin. "I love you so much, Bella."

"I love you too," she answered kissing my neck softly.

That sounded so good.

I closed my eyes at the sensation of her lips on me. I knew that she was every thing that I wanted. Everything that I needed and I realised at that moment that I needed everyone else to know too.

"I think it's time to tell people," I murmured.

She lifted her head slowly, her eyes wide and bright. I smiled and tucked her hair behind her ear. "I want people to know that you're with me and then maybe I won't feel as…" I shrugged my shoulders, "wound up inside."

Her face dropped slightly and she shifted from me slightly. "You want to tell people so you'll stop feeling…wound up?" she asked furrowing her eyebrows tightly.

I looked at her trying to see why her face had changed. She was upset about something and it took me a moment to understand what.

I breathed out long and loud when I realised how she had taken my statement.

"No, Bella." I smiled pulling her back to me and placing and small kiss on the end of her nose.

"I want people to know because I love you. I want people to know because I'm so proud that you chose to be with me and I want people to know so that when they see us together they'll think 'that Cullen's a lucky fucker!'"

She giggled as I'd hoped she would and I couldn't help but smile at her. "What I meant was that, maybe us not hiding us would help me with what I'm feeling. It's bad enough trying to deal with all of this and then not being able to express it when I'm out with you."

She dropped her chin, raised her eyebrows and looked at me from under her lashes with an-I-told-you-so-smirk plastered across her face.

I laughed and squeezed her to me. "I know, I know," I conceded. "I'm a fucking idiot who knows nothing."

I grabbed her around the waist making her squeal and pulled her down to me so I could kiss her. "Well, actually I know that I love you," I whispered against her lips, "and I know that I'll never do anything as fucking stupid like last night again."

She pulled back and looked at me, stroking her nails through my hair. "Edward, can I ask you to promise me something?"

I nodded and kissed her wrist as she cupped my face. "Anything, baby," I smiled, listening intently.

"Promise me that you will talk to me next time you are scared, or angry or upset." She looked at my mouth then back to my eyes. "I don't think I could cope with that again."

My heart broke as I took at her pained expression. I kissed her lips as gently as I could and leaned my forehead against hers.

"I promise, Bella," I answered.

"I know I need to be a little more forthcoming with my own thoughts and feelings but," she exhaled loudly, "last night was so hard."

I pulled back and looked at her. She wasn't angry or sad but more frustrated. "Knowing that you were in here on your own, Edward and knowing that you were ignoring me. I would have just been here with you, held you, anything. I felt so helpless."

I frowned at my own stupidity and thoughtlessness. Alice was right, I did underestimate her. She was worried about me and wanted to be there for me but I had pushed her away.

I would never do it again and I told her so.

I wrapped my arms around her again and crushed her to me wondering how the hell I had managed to be away from her. I smiled as I felt her relax against me. I glanced down and chuckled. "Um…Miss Swan, would you mind explaining to me why you are wearing my sweater?" She looked up at me and blushed while tugging it around her knees. "Not that I mind you wearing my clothes," I added. "Actually, I find it sexy as hell."

"It was the only thing that I made sure Alice packed," she answered blushing a beautiful shade of pink. "It smells of you and I wanted it in case you weren't near me for whatever reason." She waved her hand dismissively.

I cocked my head to the side as I watched her squirm with embarrassment.

"You are so damned beautiful," I whispered and rolled my eyes at myself. "I definitely need a Thesaurus or some shit," I chuckled. "Beautiful just sounds so fucking corny now when I use it to describe you."

She snuggled closer to me and laughed.

"Beautiful works for me," she murmured and yawned with a sigh.

"Are you tired, sweetheart?" I nuzzled her hair before planting a kiss on her forehead.

"Mm," she answered. "But we need to start getting ready for the interviews."

I shook my head against her.

"No, we don't. Jasper is going without me," I answered. "I arranged everything with Jane through Alice. Didn't you know?"

She looked up at me with a confused expression. "I'm in bed with sickness and a temperature and can only do phone interviews."

She smiled and kissed me softly. I would never tire of the feeling of her lips on mine. That shit was just too damned perfect.

"Do you want to sleep, baby?" I asked softly, feeling her slump against me.

She nodded as I kissed her cheek and scooped her up in my arms and carried her to my bed. I laid her down gently and she scooted lazily under the covers, her hair scattering over the pillows. She turned to me as I stood watching her, utterly and completely blown away by how amazing this woman really was.

"Edward," she murmured, holding her hand out to me. "Lie with me."

Always, baby…

I kicked off my shoes and lifted the covers. I slid in behind her, pushing my arm slowly under her neck and my other arm wound around her waist holding her close to me. She was so warm and I immediately started to feel drowsy. I nuzzled her neck and she sighed loudly.

"This is real, Bella," I whispered, planting a small kiss on her neck.

"I know, Edward," she replied quietly.

I closed my eyes slowly and let sleep take me, knowing that the next time I opened my eyes I would be one step closer to being the man I knew I could be.

Holy snuggles on a bench with Edward Batman!!

I know it's a shorter chapter than what you're used to and I apologise, but this was a pretty tough chapter to write and to be honest, fairly draining.

I think it needed to end here before anything else happens.

Edward and Bella have both been through the ringer and need to sleep it off so shhhhhhh….

Still to come…

travelling back to LA, asking Bella to Italy, Angela…oops, better not say any more…

On a more serious note; I have been fortunate enough to neither have been a victim nor witnessed domestic abuse. I am very well aware that it is a very real problem for thousands of people; men, women and children every day all over the world and hope that this chapter has not caused offence or hurt.

I have tried to be as sensitive as possible and hope that you can forgive any moments where that may not be the case.

I know that you will let me know either way.

TTFN x x x