A/N: So sorry for the George R.R. Martin style wait, if any of you are still out there.
Thanks to keepingupwiththekids for coming out of beta retirement once again for me. She's the best, as always.
Obligatory: most of this does not belong to me, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
We had to find Catherine Denali. We were a force of four, arms intertwined, marching in tandem, eyes darting every direction looking for our target, and gathering the attention of many. People separated as we neared them, dashing and scurrying away if they could, and quickly. Those we passed, curiously stared, some letting out noticeable sighs of relief when we didn't stop for them. We must have been a formidable sight and if I wasn't so focused on finding the woman responsible for such an outrageous violation of my own privacy, I would've wanted to see our reflections in a mirror.
I couldn't believe there were pictures of us. Bella and I had been so stupid and reckless this weekend with our uncontrollable behavior in public. I could have saved us this much trouble if I had the common sense to keep this relationship behind the closed doors of Bella's apartment, rather than the very public beach. But who was to say I wouldn't have led this person to take photos of us there somehow?
My stomach lurched at the thought of Bella being hunted and unsafe in her own home. Was she safe now? The photos were delivered to her apartment! My feet stopped immediately, causing everyone to come to an abrupt and uncomfortable halt.
"Bella," I started, Alice frantically searching my face as to what could be going on in my head. "The pictures…you said they were delivered to her door." My statement directed to Rose and my mother.
"Yes," Rose began. "We found them on the floor of her living room."
"So this creep knows where she lives?" my voice cracking with strain. "And she's alone right now?" My mother squeezed my hand. "I need to talk to her," I implored.
"You can, and you will, Edward, darling," my mother soothed. "Bella is fine. She's not in danger. The pictures were just a ploy to scare her away from you." My mother pressed forward. "It will not work." My mother's determination was something to behold. She was stronger than any of us and I was so glad Alice had the good sense to put her on my side. I owed them both so much.
Catherine was still nowhere to be found, even as we passed the closed door of Tanya's room.
"She can't be far," Alice murmured. She was right, Catherine had not ventured from the hospital for long while Tanya slept. Now that she was awake, it was odd that she wasn't here by her side. Maybe there was something in her plan that needed to be completed? Maybe that was why she was missing?
"Should we split up?" Rose asked, after we had circled Tanya's floor for the second time. "We'd cover more ground that way," she suggested. Just as I was about to agree, my father came into view. He stopped, like a deer caught in headlights, upon meeting our gaze, and genuinely looked petrified as my mother's posture straightened. She posed, ready for an attack, and my father, usually brave and fearless, shrank before our eyes.
"Carlisle," mother commanded him forth, her voice clear and resonant. At once, I remembered what it was like to fear her when I was small and mischievous, and felt unexpected pity for my father. It was difficult to imagine him speechless or powerless, like Alice suggested had happened at the lunch today, but I could see it now. My mother wielded great influence over him, and I was eternally grateful for it. It gave me hope, something I was greatly lacking before today. Father sheepishly moved closer to us, wanting to avoid a dramatic scene that would be the talk of the hospital for years. "Where is Catherine?" mother used in her softer, more dulcet tone, now that he was closer, as if she also realized the company of prying eyes.
"I…I have no idea," he stammered, slightly, attempting to regain his composure. "I took her to the waiting area earlier after Edward requested to be alone with Tanya. How is she? You said she was talking?" He looked at me with sincere concern, and if I dared to think it, a little bit of remorse.
"She's…" I began, but was cut off by my mother again.
"That's not the concern right now, Carlisle," she skillfully interrupted, keeping us on task. "We must find Catherine. She may have done something horribly rash and damaging."
"I'm sure it's nothing that serious," he naively replied, clearly knowing nothing about just how far Tanya's mother would go to secure her…position? I still wasn't sure what she had to gain here. Was our name really that powerful and important to her? Would she destroy her daughter's happiness just for that?
"Stop trusting her!" my mother snapped, causing my father's eyes to widen in shock, clearly not adept at being on her bad side. "She's trying to ruin us and she's manipulating you to help her do it. She hired someone to take pictures of your son with Bella. We don't know where all the copies are, only that a set was delivered while Rose and I were visiting her this evening."
"You were visiting…" Carlisle began, his tone admonished.
"Yes, Carlisle!" her sharpness cut him off again, literally causing him to step back from her. "I wanted to meet her. She's lovely and a bit crude, but I find it refreshing," she added with a smile at me and I couldn't help but smile back. "She'll certainly enliven us once she's part of the family." Alice gasped and my heart felt as though it would leap out of my chest.
"Mother," I began, but was unable to speak the words of gratitude I felt in that moment.
"Esme, are you serious?" My father asked. "Is this girl…really worth all of the trouble that will come with her?" I wanted to punch my father in the face for this question. If my mother was on my side, why did he even have to ask that question? Alice seemed to know my anger at him was not completely extinguished. She wrapped her arm around mine to hold me close to her.
"Yes, I believe she is," mother answered him plainly. "And she makes our boy happy, that should truly be enough for you to understand." I shook Aly loose and hugged my mother as hard I could without breaking her. She heartily laughed at the warm embrace.
"I love you so much, mother. You're a treasure and a saint." My father stood dumbfounded, raking his hands through his hair. Alice giggled with glee, dancing from one foot to the other, and even Rose had a smirk that resembled a smile on her face.
"I don't think I can take back what I've done," my father said softly.
"Can you try?" I immediately asked, knowing he was referring to Bella's position at the Tribune.
"Yes, I'll see what alternatives are available," he suggested. "But I gathered she may have been in some trouble already. You both made quite a spectacle of yourselves last night."
"They're making a habit of doing that," Alice joked. I shot her a look. "What? You know it's true. You two are ridiculously obvious when you're in the same room, even our thick-headed brother noticed. Subtlety is not your greatest strength."
"Yes, I know," I responded, rolling my eyes at her, but feeling like a switch had flipped in my brain and there was nothing but weightlessness and contentment. For the first time since I was very small, I felt carefree. Did it really matter what Catherine Denali had to say about any of this? Or what she was attempting to hold over my head? My family was here, backing me, being supportive of my decisions. I wasn't sure anything else mattered.
"We can't lose focus, Edward," my mother chided. "It is still very important for us to find Catherine and those photos."
"Does it matter, really?" I asked, voicing my internal thought for once. "I've spoken to Tanya about it, and we're on the same page with parting." At this, Carlisle looked shocked.
"You're really behind, old man," Alice once again joked. "Have you not seen Mr. Tall, Dark, and Handsome lurking around Tanya's room all week?" Carlisle suddenly shot his head around the area, scanning for a person of this description.
"Catherine asked me to keep him away…said he was upsetting her. I even called security several times to remove him, but I never really asked why he was there."
"Oh dear," my mother reproved, "You're really quite oblivious sometimes, darling." My father smiled at the endearment regardless of her calling him out for his gullibility. It seemed he would take anything she would give him at this point.
"He's Tanya's version of my Bella," I answered for clarity. "Apparently, we've been blind to it for quite a long time." My mother abruptly cleared her throat.
"Except you!" Alice exclaimed, pointing at my mother. "How long have you known about this?" Mother blushed slightly.
"As I've mentioned before, it was not my place to say anything. I may have run into them a few months ago." This time, I couldn't believe my ears. My mother knew about this…for months?
"Mom!" Alice cried. "How could you keep that quiet? After all Edward has been through with her!"
"I know," she said, and then looked directly at me, "I am sorry for not mentioning it, but I wasn't sure, not sure enough to poke holes at what seemed like a difficult relationship already."
"You know what?" I started, a smile on my face, "I don't care. I'm ready to move forward." Alice didn't seem to want to let it go as quickly as I did, but I was done analyzing and overthinking. I just wanted to start living my life with Bella.
"Pictures," my mother said again, keeping us on task. "We really must find her. Who knows what she could be doing right now in our absence."
We all agreed to split up to search the hospital thoroughly, but to no avail. It was clear that Catherine wasn't there, which was increasingly odd. I stepped back into Tanya's room while waiting for the rest of my family to meet up for a new plan, hoping to find Catherine hiding inside, but only found a sleeping Tanya and Felix. Felix lifted his head from her bed at the sound of my entrance.
"How is she?" I asked him, noting how awkward the question sounded, to ask my wife's lover about her health when I was, in fact, a doctor and her husband. I grabbed her chart at the foot of her bed to check for any changes since I was last in there.
"I think she's improving. She seems calmer now," he answered. I agreed. She was sleeping peacefully and soundly. Whatever happened to us, I was really glad she had Felix to help her through what would be a difficult trial in our lives. Or maybe it wouldn't be difficult at all. We were both free to love who we wanted now. Maybe these next steps would be a breeze compared to what we were living before.
"Do you have a phone?" I asked him, "I need mine back," He nodded and got his out of his pocket. I gently removed my phone from Tanya's grip only to find that the battery had died long before I could get to it, and replaced it with Felix's. "She'll hopefully regain her speech soon, but at least that gives her an outlet." I put my useless phone in my pocket and left the room so they could be alone again.
"She's nowhere," Alice announced, coming from around the corner just as I had shut Tanya's door. She plopped down in a chair, rubbing her stomach and exhaling deeply. "I've run around this entire place and I just keep running into people looking for her, rather than her."
"Obviously, I didn't have any luck either," I said, sitting down beside her, but with a probing eye on her. She had to be exhausted with all of the stress and physicality of this week. A muffled groan escaped her, though she seemed to be trying to hide or ignore it. "Alice…"
"Oh, it's nothing. I'm just tired," she immediately answered, though another pain seemed to strike her, causing her to double over in her seat. I immediately flew into action, scooping my sister up from her chair.
"Nurse!" I cried. "I need a bed, now!"
"It's nothing…" Ally tried to quietly plead. I ignored her. I would never forgive myself if I caused my sister to lose her baby. My parents appeared, father flying at me in haste to get to his only daughter.
"This way!" he called, "Esme, call Jasper!" I followed my father's lead to the ER carrying my unexpectedly and dreadfully quiet sister. I set her down on the nearest gurney I could find and began wheeling her behind my father. The ER usually gave me a rush of adrenaline the moment I stepped inside but this time, there was only panic. I called to an orderly to push the gurney, so I could do something more useful, he took my spot, and I instantly grabbed Alice's wrist to check her pulse. Slow, but steady.
"Come on, Ally," I said, as I lightly tapped her cheeks, trying to revive her from her faint. She started to shift her head from side to side, groaning.
"Jasper…" she whispered.
"I'm here, Chéri," Jasper said, appearing silently at her side, grasping her hand. Alice smiled, her eyes fluttering open to see him. "Didn't I tell you to rest?" He asked jovially. How he could be so calm was a mystery to me.
"Ally, we're going to hook you up to an IV," I said pleasantly, in an attempt to keep her calm, as a nurse came up to me with fluids. Ally groaned.
"No needles, I'm fine, Edward!" she cried, more resilient, now that Jasper was there.
"Hush, now. Do what the doctor says." Jasper supplied, kissing her forehead to calm her. I had the IV in before she could complain further.
"Get her into Room 2," my father commanded of the orderly, and then began ordering a barrage of tests for the nurse to take note. My hands found my hair, tugging mercilessly, in my exasperation of the change of events. "Edward, do you mind jumping on shift?"
"Not at all," I replied.
"Go update your mother and then change into your scrubs." I nodded and raced to find my mother.
"How is she?" she asked as soon as I came into view.
"She's alert again. Jasper's with her, father is running tests."
"What do you think though?" worry etching her voice as she wrung her hands together, twisting them so violently I wondered if she was conscious of her actions. Her hands were turning bright red from the friction.
"I think she's dehydrated and exhausted," I answered, gently prying her hands apart.
"And the baby?" It was the question I would've avoided if I could, because I had no idea, and anything I said wasn't going to help her get through the wait tonight.
"They're running tests now," I offered, "I'll let you know more as soon as I know." I dashed off to the locker room to change, eager to help Ally and get answers. As I changed, I placed my dead phone in my locker and momentarily thought about contacting Bella. It was then I realized I bought two phones today, one was dead and the other was in my Volvo back at Bella's apartment. I looked at my watch, well after midnight now. It would have to wait. She was hopefully asleep, blissfully dreaming, of me, I hoped. I'd make sure to call by morning.
The city rudely awakens before I arouse from the security and peace of my bed. The incessant beeping of maintenance trucks reversing to scoop dumpsters of garbage into their metal bins, grates against my ears no matter how hard I try to block it. Men are bellowing directions, shouting across uninhabited streets as if they can't be heard over the silence. I reached for a pillow to cover my head, block out any noise, only to be attacked by the unexpected scent of Edward.
I breathed deeply.
I leave my eyes closed, so I could dream a little longer, dream of him still beside me, never leaving my side, never getting interrupted. Memories of last night engulfed my mind, the exquisite feeling of his weight on top of me, writhing together in a sweet, explosive rhythm. My body convulsed involuntarily, forcing my eyes open to the emptiness of my bedroom.
My bed was a disaster of sheets and blankets wrapped around me as if I had tried to mummify myself in Edward's scent while I slept. Smart unconscious work I did there, because it was some of the best sleep of my life. So heavy, I never heard Edward message me back last night…
I clamored out of my Edward wrap, throwing pillows and bedding in a wild, frantic search that resulted in the thud of my phone hitting the floor. No blinking light, I realized as I reached for it from the bed.
No messages. No voice mails. Nothing. Fuck.
I did not take the silence my phone granted me well. Instantly, there were at least six dozen different scenarios running through my brain of why I would never see or hear from Edward again. All scenarios resulting in him reconciling with his wife, determined to make it work for her, his family, his religion, giving him the peace I wasn't sure I could give him.
But I could give him love. Unconditional. Irrevocable. Would it be enough to bring him back to me?
I sat back on the bed, pondering my next move. Should I go to the hospital? Should I call him? Would I look needy if I did call him?
Yes, of course you would, Bella. Don't be a needy bitch.
I threw myself back into my pillows with a groan. Why did this shit have to be so difficult? Shouldn't love be easier, carefree, even?
Oh, don't you come back, doubtful Bella, I warned myself. There was no room for doubts anymore. Things were always going to fall apart before they got better, I knew this. Those pictures slid under my door last night were proof of it. I still couldn't believe someone would go that far to ruin us. I couldn't believe it would be anyone in Edward's family. Surely his father wouldn't go to that extreme. What if they were leaked to the press? They would be such an embarrassment…
"FUCK!" I screamed, grabbing my phone again, this time, to check emails, and there they were, several from my boss starting from Saturday night forward. The first, kindly reminding me of my deadline for the benefit article, then they became more pressing and angrier the later into that night when I never answered.
I never answered. I never even wrote it.
Sure, I had a certain disdain for my job, but I had never missed a deadline. Nor had I not done something I was assigned to do. What was Edward doing to me and was it…healthy? Was it just the first stages of love, where you just forget everything that made you a person because you're so overwhelmed by it all? Or was that a myth and this was something entirely worse and consuming? Kate did everything for Spencer, turned her life upside down for him, absolutely devoted to helping him. Would I do that for Edward? Or better yet, would it be a requirement to be with him?
The screen of my phone refocused as I shook my head loose of the questions in my head. There were more emails on Sunday from my boss, these containing links from other papers' stories of the benefit.
"Oh god!" I said aloud. There were so many. Just precisely how much press was there to see Edward and I make fools of ourselves? What if they got their hands on the pictures sitting on my dresser? What if they already had? Panic stretched through my chest, numbing my limbs and I started to shake.
What had I done?
I tried to scroll through my emails to see if there was anything for today...there was, a daunting meeting with my boss scheduled for 8am, where I was sure to be fired. And while Edward's father might've had something to do with it, I was now resigned to the fact that I deserved it. I was the one who kissed him in front of everyone, my decision. Edward wasn't in his right mind, he'd had so much bourbon, and especially once his father tried to break us apart. I single-handedly ruined any chance for us.
What was I fucking thinking?
I grabbed a pillow from behind me and screamed into it as loud as I could, feeling very little relief afterward.
Selfish Bella was the worst.
It was two hours later that I stood in front of my boss' desk as he read me the riot act of missing my deadline and how I ruined myself in this city by getting on the Cullen family's bad side. I found myself just nodding in agreement to everything he said, rather than trying to defend my actions. I still hadn't heard from Edward and that wasn't exactly boosting my confidence levels.
"I'm sorry, Miss Swan," my boss barked at the end of his tirade, marginally softening his tone. "It's a damn shame, but you're done here. I can't help you."
Even though I knew it was coming, was warned it was coming, the tears stung at my eyes. I hated, more than anything, being a disappointment.
"I…I understand," I managed to stutter out, while quickly shaking his hand and then ducking my head out of his office before I lost all control. I felt like Hester Prynne as I walked back to my cubicle to retrieve what few personal items I had there, all eyes were on me, and I could hear their whispered remarks of judgment. I could feel myself shaking with both shame and anger, but wanted hopelessly to exit with a modicum of respect. I threw my items, including a picture of myself, Jacob, and Charlie in my bag hurriedly, and then walked out the doors of the Tribune for the last time.
"Miss Swan," a woman called as I walked out of the building. I turned to meet the cat-like, steel blue eyes of a thin woman, wrapped in a fur coat, and a most displeasing haughty demeanor.
"Yes," I said, instantly hating myself for not just running away. This had no indication of being a pleasant encounter, and I desperately needed to escape and recover.
"Catherine Denali," she snootily announced, as though I was supposed to know who she was.
"Yeah, okay," I replied in return, there was something about this woman that called for rudeness. "I don't know who you are." She seemed to stiffen, straightening her posture to appear more imposing. It worked.
"I'm Edward Cullen's mother-in-law."
Ooooooh….shit. Now this woman was seeking me out? She left her ailing daughter's side to seek me out! Why didn't I run away?
"I understand you know who Edward Cullen is, as you appear to have an intimate relationship with him, if the papers are to be believed," she continued, while I pondered why she was standing in front of me. I guess it was too naïve to hope she would ignore my existence rather than confront me. Alice did say she was a witch. I'd prefer to replace the W with a better letter. "I need you to understand that this will no longer be permitted to continue."
"Excuse me?" I asked.
"You heard me. This dalliance you and Edward have had for the past week stops now. He is married to my daughter and that cannot and will not change."
"Oh, but it will," I said, defiantly. Welcome back, Selfish Bella.
"You are mistaken. I spoke to Edward this morning while he held my daughter's hand. She's recovering well and he is very resolved to stay with her, now that he's absolved from his weakness of character. I was sent to see you off, Edward asked me, himself, to do so."
"That…can't be," softly the words tumbled out, no matter how hard I tried to keep them inside my mouth. Edward wouldn't do this to me, but…he had not called, and still there was nothing but silence from my phone. Was this it? Was it truly over? A devilish smirk appeared on her face and she knew she had me. These mother fucking doubts would be my end.
"You're to leave this city immediately," she said, slapping a boarding pass into my hand. "Your father is expecting you on this flight." I looked down at the boarding pass, one way back to Seattle. "Good day, Miss Swan. Trust we will never meet again." I stood flabbergasted and detesting myself for not saying anything of value, while she marched away.
"I don't believe you," I proclaimed, loud enough to halt her steps. "Edward wouldn't do it this way."
He just wouldn't. Would he?
"How would you know?" she asked, a frightening smile stretching across her face, as I regretted saying a word, "you've only known him a week."
"Heed my advice and get on the plane, Miss Swan, or this city will make you regret it. Those pictures slid under your door last night, they'll become your preview for tomorrow's news." I cringed at the thought, and instantly knew she was behind it all…would make me pay for it all. "That's a good girl," she said, condescendingly, "understand that you're finished here."
"Is there anything I can bring you, Mrs. Cullen?" I looked up to see a pleasant woman in scrubs standing before me, breaking me free of the worry that was all encompassing and the rhythm of my tapping foot. The sudden silence was jarring; my foot went back to tapping before I found words to speak. I had been sitting in front of Tanya's room uninterrupted since Alice was rushed to the ER, waiting for news that was slow to come, torn by the need to help my daughter and knowing I could do nothing, or waiting for Catherine to come and help my son.
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap.
"No, dear," I replied, grasping her hand and squeezing it gently. "Thank you," I added.
"Doctor Cullen said to let you know your daughter will be brought up shortly," the woman added.
"Is there any news? I haven't had any since my son came around so many hours ago."
"Oh yes, she's well, as is the baby," she said, a hearty laugh escaped me. Hours of stress and worry fell from my body instantly.
"Oh thank God," I replied, relief washing over me. I was so very afraid for her.
"I thought they had told you already or I would've opened up with that," the woman replied. "Your daughter just needs to remember how important it is to rest…and to eat." I laughed again.
"Yes, of course," I could feel tears of happiness in my eyes. "Thank you, again," I said, standing up to hug this wonderful woman with all her wonderful news.
"Mom!" I heard my lovely daughter cry from down the hall. She looked ready to spring from her bed as she was guided toward me. Jasper had a firm grip on her hand to keep her from doing exactly that.
"Alice, dear," I called, rushing to her, my darling girl. "How are you feeling?"
"Oh Mom, I'm fine. I feel great now, but this one won't let me leave," she said with a grin as she pointed at Jasper.
"You'll stay in that bed until you're released by a doctor," Jasper chided.
"So I'm here for the duration of this pregnancy then. There's no way Dad or Edward will let me leave here after that stunt. Go twelve hours without eating and everyone loses their minds." I couldn't help but chuckle. "They're putting me beside Tanya's room, by my request," Alice added, as the orderly went back to wheeling her down the hall. "I figured it'd be easier to keep an eye out for Catherine that way. Have you found her yet?"
"Chéri…" Jasper warned.
"No, Jasper. This is important." She looked at me with her insistent eyes, desperate for information. She was always so worried about helping others, especially when it came to family. "We have to find and talk some sense into her or she's going to ruin Edward and Tanya's best chance for happiness."
"We'll find her, darling, but you really must rest now and let me take care of it," I offered as I stroked her hair to settle her. Alice leaned back into the bed as we arrived at her new room.
"If I must," she added, with her charming smile. Jasper and I stepped aside so the orderly could turn her bed to fit the doorway, just as Catherine Denali stepped out of the elevator at the opposite end of the hall.
"Stop!" Alice cried, shooting her tiny arms to either side of the doorframe holding the bed outside the room. The orderly was forced to halt, noting the three of us were staring at the Catherine's sudden appearance.
"Wheel her inside," Jasper demanded of the orderly, sensing Alice's excitement and wanting to contain it as quickly as possible.
"Wait, Jasper, no. I need to stay out here, please," she pleaded, but Jasper was unmoved. He gently removed her arms from the doorframe so the orderly could resume his duty.
"Stay with her, Jasper," I said, taking his side, causing Alice's flash of anger at my betrayal. "Make sure she stays in the bed."
"Mom!" Alice cried. "This is ridiculous!" I shut the door to her cries to face Catherine alone. I could still hear her ranting on the other side. Alice had done enough, now it was my turn.
"Esme," Catherine called, her insincerity easily distinguished, once you were aware of her intentions.
"We've been looking everywhere for you, Catherine," I replied.
"I do apologize," No, not an apology. "I had something of a time-sensitive nature I had to…enforce." She stood before me now, straightening her posture in a poor attempt to intimidate me. That may work on my kids, but it wasn't going to work on me.
"Enforce? What an odd word to use. Could it have anything to do with my son?"
"Why…Esme, what would make you think such a thing?" My patience was already running thin. "I love Edward, just as much as Tanya does."
"That might be the truest thing you've ever uttered," I replied. "Just like your daughter, you have no love for my son, and your actions this week have proved it."
"Esme," she started, sickeningly sweet, continuing to put on a show, "I have no idea what you're talking about. I've been wrecked with anguish at the bedside of my daughter all week. The poor thing can't even talk and she may never again!"
"Spare me your dramatics, Catherine. You've been having Edward followed, for reasons I do not understand when you clearly know your own daughter has no desire to be with him."
"You do not know my daughter's wishes," she said coldly, threatening, as I finally found the words to break through her façade.
"Have you met Mr. Spencer?" I asked, with a smirk I couldn't stop. It was delightful to see her proud expression turn rancid with an angry flush creeping up her neck. "I've met him, a few times, and he's a lovely gentleman. I think they could be very happy together." I added, with the glee in my voice my daughter inherited. Catherine gritted her teeth as she tried to find her composure, little did I know she would fail miserably. I side-stepped her to get to Tanya's door, thinking if I could just get her inside to see how happy Tanya was with Felix, then she'd understand. "She seems at home with him, Catherine," I continued, pressing the door forward to reveal her daughter asleep. Felix had not left her side, her hand clenched in both of his while he watched her sleep. He shifted slightly when the door swung wide, a smile from me kept him grounded in his spot. Catherine followed my lead and peered inside the room, lashing out instantly.
"Get away from her!" she hissed. Felix quickly stood up but didn't let go of Tanya's hand.
"Catherine!" I cried as she shoved me aside and bolted into the room. This situation was falling apart faster than I could manage. "Call my husband here…and my son," I called to a nurse.
"Have you no shame?" Catherine attacked, quickly in Felix's face. "Taking advantage of my broken daughter, she wants nothing to do with you!" At this, Tanya's eyes shot open with alarm, her grip on Felix's hand noticeably tighter, all while Catherine tried to forcibly separate them. To his credit, Felix didn't leave Tanya's side, even with Catherine tugging at him.
"Maa-," Tanya's whisper stopped everyone, shocked she could make sounds. "Mmmaa…sss…top." Catherine shot a look at her daughter, desperately trying to piece words together, her eyes desperate for her to stop this madness. Catherine had no intention of listening. "Puh…eese."
"No, I will not," she answered, defiantly. "You're out of your mind and cannot make rational decisions. I will speak for you. You're to go, now." She commanded of Felix.
"Catherine," I implored. "Don't do this to your daughter. She deserves to be happy just like anyone else."
"Esme, you will stop this now. You and your family will not benefit from my daughter's damaged state. In fact, your precious son," she spat the word, and then a devilish grin appeared on her face, "will find that his mistress is gone from this city, never to return, never to see him again. There will be no need to end this marriage," she concluded, sitting down next to Tanya, who looked disgusted by her mother's presence.
"What?" I asked, stunned. "What have you done with Bella?"
"What about Bella?" Edward asked, arriving at my side, his face unable to keep a smile from appearing at the mere mention of her name, but his mood darkened radically once Catherine explained.
"Gone," Catherine derided. "Her disposal was easy…and dare I add, quite fun."
"You bitch…" Edward began, looking as if he could throttle her. I grabbed his hand to hold him back as Catherine began to laugh. "What did you do to her?" he demanded to know, and was becoming increasingly difficult to hold back.
"Edward, calm down," I suggested, his face was becoming pale with anguish.
"What is happening?" I heard Alice cry through the walls as Jasper opened the door to see if he was needed. When he saw my strain to hold back Edward, he jumped in to help.
"She was easy to manipulate into leaving town, thanks for those pictures, by the way," her mouth spread into what could only be described as a malicious grin. "Let her go, or those pictures will be sent to every news outlet in the area." Edward's hands went to his hair as began to laugh at Catherine, truly astonishing her, as she expected him to obey.
"You think that will keep me away from her?" Edward bravely asked. Bella had given him more courage than I had ever seen from him, and I couldn't help but be proud. "I don't care about the pictures or what scandal they may produce. None of it matters, as long as I'm with her." My son turned toward me. "Mother…I have to go find her."
"Yes," I agreed. "Go now, quickly." I watched him take off at a run for a moment before turning back to Catherine. I could feel Jasper staring at me, wondering what I would do next, while Catherine appeared disinterested in our presence, satisfied with the destruction she had caused.
"Edward may not care about pictures, Catherine," I began, calling for her attention once again, "but I certainly do. If you insist on dragging my family through the mud of a city-wide society scandal, you will not go unscathed."
"You have nothing," Catherine declared, giving me a cautionary look from Tanya's bedside.
"Ask your daughter if I have nothing," I responded, delighting at the look on both their faces.
"You're…" Catherine stammered, as she looked down at her daughter. "You think I'd be foolish enough to believe you, Esme, when you're backed into a corner."
"I've known about Tanya and Felix for a long time and have said nothing."
"It…" Tanya tried to speak again, but proving too difficult, she just nodded to confirm, much to Catherine's dismay.
"Now, Catherine. Do you think I'd be naïve and let that slide, or do you think I'd play it exactly like you have? I was just waiting for the right time. Turns out, it's now."
"You wouldn't…" Catherine said, but a realization dawned on her, that she had found a worthy adversary, a fellow mama bear, doing whatever she could to protect her cubs.
"I would." I confirmed. "Why else do you think I'm so accepting of Edward's relationship with Bella?"
"All right, Mom!" I heard Alice yell from the other room.
"You hand over what you have, all copies, film, and digital versions will be destroyed," I demanded, "and I will promise the same."
"I need proof!" Catherine shouted. "I will not just take your word." Tanya's arm shot out to her mother, her eyes pleading with Catherine to take the deal.
"Need proof of what?" Carlisle calmly asked, suddenly appearing at the door, undoubtedly curious about the shouting match occurring in the room.
"Catherine," I began quickly, before she had a chance to speak her evil, "has confirmed she is the one who had pictures taken of Edward with Bella last night." Carlisle merely nodded at this information, adopting a milder attitude toward the situation than in previous days or even hours. Had he finally accepted this was inevitable? Probably not, but he was letting me take the lead in this, and that was an important first step.
"Carlisle…let me explain," Catherine poorly attempted, her voice silky smooth in his company.
"And now I'm telling her I have pictures of Tanya and Felix," I interrupted, with a broad smile, causing my husband to uncontrollably smile back.
"Do you have pictures of them, dear?" he asked, sweetly, while Catherine gaped at us, slack-jawed. "What am I thinking? Of course, you do," he answered himself. He had, at the very least, known when to take my side. Glad to have you back, my love. I can never stay mad at you for long.
"Do we have a deal, Catherine? This ends now."
"Yes," she muttered, begrudgingly, knowing at least for now, that she couldn't take us both.
"Wonderful," I replied. "We should let Tanya rest now. Carlisle, darling, she is trying to speak, you should look her over please." My husband sprang into work as I ushered Jasper and myself out the door to Alice's room. The rush of adrenaline caused a numbing sensation in my limbs.
"Mom, you are a rock star!" she said with her bright smile as we entered the room.
"Don't I know it," I replied, shaking my arms loose, trying to regain some feeling, then whispered, "I can lie like one, too, God forgive me, but I think I bought us some time."
A/N: Chapter 23 is finished, just in final edit stages and will be posted soon.