Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns Twilight, which means she gets to spend time with Rob on set.
A/N: We're getting there guys … there are maybe 2-3 more chapters to go, and an epilogue. On a brighter note though, I've posted the synopsis for my next story, so add it to your alert list so you know when the writing process kicks off!
A special hello to Ady, who is on holiday at the moment, as well as a special shout-out to Caren and You-won't-see-an-iguana-here (love that name!) for so many reviews (that's some serious reading time guys!), and a warm welcome to ChasingDownaDream!
Cabtwilighter (both of you) – hope you're studying hard at college!
And now without further ado …
"You sure you're doing the speed limit? It feels slower," Edward asked as he leaned across to peer over Rosalie's shoulder as she drove.
"Of course I am, this is me you're driving with, remember?"
"Fine," Edward sighed and subsided back into his seat, his leg jigging impatiently.
"Someone's in a bit of a hurry," observed Rosalie in an amused tone.
Edward shot her a sidelong look, and reached out to turn up the volume on the radio.
Rosalie chuckled and kept driving.
They pulled up at some traffic lights, and Rosalie noticed that Edward was so lost in thought he didn't even register the people in the car next to them do a double take and start to squeal.
By the time they arrived home, Edward had changed the radio station half a dozen times and checked Rosalie's driving speed twice. It was with considerable relief that Rosalie parked the car and watched him bolt towards the front door of the house.
o * o * o * o
Bella shifted into a more comfortable position on the sofa and tried not to look at her watch.
"Relax Bells, they'll be here soon," said an amused voice.
Bella looked up to see Emmett sauntering into the room, a partially eaten cupcake in his hand.
"You're having another one? How many is that now?"
"S'okay, it's one of Rosalie's," Emmett said, eyes twinkling as he took another bite.
"And that makes it right, how?"
"What the eyes don't see, the heart won't grieve over," he replied through a mouthful. "Anyway, she stole enough of mine so I figure this is payback."
"You know," Bella added in a thoughtful tone, "I might have to cut back on baking so many of those, otherwise you're going to end up going into sugar shock or something."
Emmett staggered back and clapped a heart over his heart.
"Woman, if you're going to be cruel like that, why don't you just kill me now and get it over and done with?"
Bella snorted with laughter and then stopped and looked towards the front door as she heard a noise outside.
"I think that might be them," Emmett said, stuffing the rest of the cupcake into his mouth to get rid of the evidence.
"Oh good," Bella stood up and wiped her hands on her jeans, "I've missed him so much, it's been lonely without him."
"Gee thanks," Emmett replied in a droll tone.
Bella's hands flew to her mouth.
"No, wait! I didn't mean it to sound like that!"
"Too late, you've said it now," Emmett said with a wink.
"Meanie," she stuck her tongue out at him.
Then the door opened, and there was Edward.
He was home.
o * o * o * o
Emmett leaned against the living room wall as he heard the front door open. Bella had jumped to her feet just as Edward appeared in the doorway, and for a moment they had stared at each other.
Edward dropped his bag as Bella headed towards him, a broad smile beginning to spread across her face. He picked her up and kissed her leisurely and without embarrassment, swinging her gently around in a circle. Bella squirmed a little in his embrace, wriggling so that she could wrap her legs around his hips. Edward made a soft noise of protest and staggered back a pace, as they both gave a breathless laugh.
"I'm getting too old for this," he said with a soft groan as he put Bella down, earning himself an indignant swat on the shoulder from Bella as Emmett laughed, "what was that for?"
"If you're getting old, what does that make me?"
"Oh that's easy," Edward said, slapping her rump as he turned her around and steered her towards the door that opened onto the deck, "you're mine."
Bella glanced at him over her shoulder.
"Pretty sure of yourself aren't you, Cullen?"
"Yup, and I don't hear you arguing about it," he replied. "Hey Em, how about you make yourself useful and rustle up something for us to drink outside?"
"On it," Emmett replied with a salute and disappeared into the kitchen.
The four of them sat outside enjoying a couple of drinks and laughing, and Edward reveled in the fact that he was home at last. He rubbed his stomach absently as he spoke, and Emmett noticed.
"You getting hungry, Edward?"
"Yeah a bit," he checked his watch, "what do you guys feel like doing for dinner?"
"Funny you should mention that," Rosalie interrupted, "Bella and I got that organized earlier today, so we'll get that started."
"Ahh I love it when a plan comes together," Emmett said, rubbing his hands together, "what's on the menu?"
"My lasagna, Rosalie's salad, some crusty bread and plenty of wine," supplied Bella as she stood up and gave Edward a quick kiss. "I'll go warm the lasagna while you guys set the table."
Edward and Emmett looked at Rosalie.
"You heard the woman," she said, "get to it."
o * o * o * o
A couple of hours later, the four of them were sprawled in their chairs, talking in low voices as the evening wound its way towards midnight. Edward leaned over and topped up Bella's glass of red wine, offered the bottle to Emmett and Rosalie who waved him off, before topping up his own glass.
"It's so good to be home," he sighed, toasting Bella's glass before leaning back in his chair.
Finally, Rosalie sat up and ruffled Emmett's head.
"Okay Tiger, we ought to call it a night," she said, standing up.
"For sure, have you got the bags?" Emmett replied as he stood up and picked up their empty wine glasses.
"They're in the car," Rosalie replied over her shoulder as she carried the remaining plates from the table inside.
"Bags? Where are you guys going?" Edward said as he got to his feet.
"You really think we're going to cramp your style on your first night back home? I suggested to Rose that we book ourselves into a nice hotel," he replied, winking at Bella who blushed and took another sip of wine.
"Really? Edward was at a loss, although he couldn't say that he wasn't pleased.
"Late check-out too," Emmett continued, "so we won't be seeing you guys until tomorrow night," he paused and gave them a broad wink, when headed inside to the kitchen where Rosalie was stacking the dishwasher, whistling to himself.
Edward and Bella looked at each other in amusement.
"Subtle isn't he," Edward commented.
"With his natural stealth he could have been a pickpocket," Bella replied, sipping her wine.
Rosalie and Emmett came back outside again and stopped at the table.
"Okay, everything's cleaned up, the house is yours, and we're outta here," Emmett grinned.
"Guys," Edward stood up, "you didn't have to do this," he said as he gave Rosalie a hug and a kiss.
"Oh yes we did," Rosalie countered, "The two of you need a break."
Bella gave Emmett a loud smacking kiss on the cheek.
"Thanks, big guy," she said.
"No problem," Emmett replied as he shook Edward's hand and then draped an arm around Rosalie's shoulders. "Besides," he added, "once the folks get here you won't have much peace and quiet."
"Thanks for the reminder, Emmett, don't let the door hit you on the ass on the way out," Edward said, slapping Emmett on the back and escorting him into the house.
o * o * o * o
They had waved Emmett and Rosalie off, and then retreated to the living room with their glasses of wine.
Edward had been expecting Bella to snuggle up to him, and so felt put out at Emmett when she took a seat at the opposite end of the sofa.
"What?" Bella asked, correctly interpreting his gaze, "just because we're together doesn't mean I have to be on top of you all the time."
"Oh I don't know," Edward replied with a reminiscent smile, "the idea has its merits."
"So, when do your parents get here?" Bella asked, ignoring his comment with a knowing smirk as she took a leisurely sip of wine.
"Next weekend," Edward replied. "I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to tell you earlier, but-"
"It's okay, Edward. I'm fine with it," Bella said with a smile, "besides, you'll have to meet my parents next. Ever dated the daughter of a cop?"
"Uh," Edward rubbed the back of his neck, "actually that's a first."
"Hmm, and did I mention that he's not just a cop, he's the Police Chief?" Bella countered.
"Yeah you've already told me that," Edward said with a droll smile.
Bella regarded him for a moment, and turned and stretched out her legs so that her feet were in Edward's lap.
"And Mom will have told him all about you beforehand," Bella added, "Because she reads all the magazines, which she regards as gospel truth."
"God," Edward took a hearty swig on wine and set his glass down, running his hands up and down Bella's legs, "is there anything I can do to make it better?"
"What you've got going on there's a pretty good start," Bella suggested, leaning back and closing her eyes in pleasure.
"So," Edward ventured after a moment of contented silence, "what's your Dad been like with your previous boyfriends?"
Bella opened her eyes and regarded Edward.
"Fishing for a bit of background there, Cullen?"
"Something like that," he allowed, "it seems only fair, you know a fair bit about my dating history."
"True," she conceded. She thought for a moment, sipping her wine, before she spoke.
Edward waited. For all that they had been getting to know each other the woman sitting beside him was still a mystery at times. He found that the more he discovered he didn't know, the more she intrigued him.
She cleared her throat and began to speak.
"Mom and Dad have been okay with the ones they met. I guess they're like all parents in that they just want to see me happy. Not that they've met a lot, I've tended to go for quality over quantity," she ventured, then pulled a face, "or so I thought at the time."
"How so?" Edward asked in a tranquil voice. He kept rubbing her legs, keeping the movements slow and easy, silently encouraging her to keep talking.
"The relationships were like any other, they had their ups and downs. One ended because on infidelity, on his part I should point out," she clarified, glancing at Edward, who nodded for her to continue. "The others, I guess we were just young, or we just drifted apart, my career was taking me in a different direction – geographically and emotionally …," her voice trailed off.
Edward watched her face as she drifted off in thought then she blinked and came back to him.
"I suppose my relationship history is much the same as anyone else's, present company excepted of course," she said, raising an eyebrow at him.
"Not that different," Edward replied, "although I guess your dating history doesn't get recycled and printed in magazines all the time."
"A fact for which I'm very grateful," Bella replied with a shudder, "I don't know how you put up with it."
"I don't really have a choice in the matter," he said, "but when your career is public property, the rest of your life becomes collateral damage."
Edward regarded his glass of wine for a moment, and then looked up to see Bella watching him with – he realized with a shock – pity.
Bella put down her glass of wine and pulled her legs back so that she could crawl across the sofa to curl up on his lap facing him.
"I'm going to word this carefully, because I don't want this to sound harsh, but you make yourself sound like a victim, did you know that?"
"I didn't until Emmett and Rose gave me a good talking to a few weeks back," he replied with a slight smile.
Bella sagged with relief, making him laugh.
"What?" he asked, "You were worried about saying that?"
"Absolutely," she nodded, "I mean, this acting gig of yours seems to be working out okay for you, so I didn't want to waltz in and start telling you how you should be living your life. Knowing those two got in first takes the heat off."
"Oh I don't know, we could make things pretty warm anyway," Edward said, nuzzling her neck, earning a breathless laugh in response.
"You could have a point there," she agreed.
"I could show you my point if you like," he offered.
Bella reached out to trace a lazy circle on the bare skin that showed at the neck of his t-shirt, making his breath hitch in his throat.
"Well," she whispered, "when you put it that way."
"Bella," he whispered back, kissing her softly, "I'll put it anyway you want."
And for the first time they remembered they had the house to themselves.
And so they stayed where they were on the sofa, kissing and whispering soft words of encouragement, punctuated often by those three most important words.
And he touched her everywhere he knew she liked to be touched.
And her breathing slowed to match his, while they delighted in the feel of each other.
And she touched him where she knew he loved to be touched.
When he finally slid into her, they both held their breath, reveling in the connection before they both started to move. They stayed with each other, staring into each other's eyes and living in a moment that seemed to stretch on forever. Their bodies curved and flexed against each other, until Bella clutched him to her, searing her mouth to his for a kiss as she whimpered, and he shuddered and buried his face in her shoulder, breathless and spent.
o * o * o * o
Edward opened his eyes when his blindly searching hand encountered the empty bed space beside him, then turned his head to see Bella emerging from the bathroom. She had pulled on the t-shirt he had discarded on the floor last night, and her hair was scruffy. As far as he was concerned, she was perfect.
She squinted at him and offered a sleepy smile before crawling into bed beside him, fussing and moving until he lifted his arm so that she could curl up against him.
"Morning, babe," he said, dropping a kiss onto the back of her neck, "ready to seize the day?"
"Meh," she grunted.
"I'll see your meh, and raise you a bah," Edward countered, startling a laugh out of her.
She twisted in his arms so that she could see his face.
"How do you do it? I've never known someone that's as much of a morning person as you are," she yawned and rubbed her eyes.
"Blame all those early morning set calls, my body clock is completely shot," he replied, trailing his fingers along her side and grinning as she squirmed. "Say, what are you wearing underneath that t-shirt of mine?" Edward asked as he slid his hand up and underneath it.
"A big movie star like you should be able to work that out easy enough," Bella said primly.
It turned out to be nothing.
After love, they lay entwined in each other's arms, talking and dozing as the morning wore on. Bella watched with an amused smile as Edward ran his fingers through her hair, curling strands of it around his fingers, or combing it so that it lay smoothly across the pillow. The repetitive movement was so soothing she felt herself drifting back to sleep.
She awoke later to the soft sensation of lips against her neck. She gave a quiet sigh and tilted her head to give him better access, which he took advantage of. She smiled as she felt his morning stubble rasp against her skin, sighing as his tongue swirled against the pulse in her neck, shifting her hips slightly against his as she felt the moisture gathering between her legs. She reached down to tug his hips until they were lying across hers, and she sighed as she felt his hardness.
She opened her eyes to see Edward gazing at her, his eyes dark and hungry, before he dipped his head for another kiss.
"Does it ever stop?" she asked in a drowsy voice.
"Does what stop?" he paused to ask before nibbling her collarbone.
"I hope not," Edward replied fervently. He gathered himself up over her, and they both groaned with pleasure as he slid into her. For a moment they were still, lying joined together, exchanging soft kisses. Then Bella flexed around him, making him moan and begin to move.
Edward brushed Bella's hair off her face and cupped his hand under her neck and she moved and squirmed, trying to get closer. Her face had been flushed with sleep, but now desire at the blood pooling in her cheeks and lips as she gasped beneath him.
"Hold on," he muttered, and her eyes widened a moment before he grabbed her tightly and rolled so that she was on top.
Bella sat up, rocking against him, biting her lip as the movement sent him deeper inside her. He reached up to run his hands up and over her breasts, following the gentle curve of her hips until he was clasping her bottom, lifting his own hips sharply to catch her by surprise. Her eyes blew open.
"That woke you up," he said with a grin, laughing so hard at her indignant look that he popped out, making him growl with frustration.
"And who's sorry now?" Bella taunted, pausing with her hips over his length, her tight curls teasing him.
"We both will be if you keep that up," he replied.
"Can't argue with that," she answered, as she slid slowly back down onto him, settling herself comfortably and stroking them both towards bliss.
o * o * o * o
By mutual agreement, the two of them had spent the day at home. The weather was mild, it was the weekend, neither of them had any work commitments, and so for the first time in weeks they had the opportunity to waste a day together. And so they did.
Edward had foraged in the refrigerator and put together enough fixings for a long grazing lunch, which they had enjoyed out on the deck. When they had eaten their fill, Bella cleared the table while Edward disappeared inside. He had reappeared a moment later with a blanket and cushions, which he had proceeded to spread over the wooden Thai day bed that was on the deck.
"Now this is the life," Bella sighed as she settled down in the curve of Edward's arm.
"Absolutely," Edward agreed, kissing her temple.
"I want a story," said Bella.
"Alright," said Edward obligingly, "once upon a time," he began, stopping when Bella laughed.
"No, I meant tell me a story about what it was like on set."
"Oh! Right," he thought for a moment, and began to speak.
As he spoke, Bella peppered him with questions, laughing at his stories of some of his co-stars demands, presents the fans had left him on the set, and his experiences in costume.
"So did you have to wear real armor?"
"Only the once, then I managed to convince Aro to make the switch to fiberglass," he replied feelingly.
"Really?" Bella was entranced, "Why, was it too heavy?"
Edward wrinkled his nose.
"Well yeah, but it more the effects of wearing it for a while. The day we did the costume test was sunny, and after I while I thought I could smell meat cooking somewhere, and it was kinda rank. Then I realized what I could smell cooking was me."
"Ew!" Bella laughed with horrified fascination, "and what sort of meat did you smell like?"
"Chicken," Edward said, as they both laughed.
As Edward recounted his stories, what had yet another movie shoot, another job to him, was something entirely new for Bella, and he found himself reliving the shoot through her eyes.
"So now it's your turn," Edward countered when he had finished at last, "tell me about your work."
"You mean the writing?" Bella looked pensive for a moment, and he was immediately reminded of their argument. "Well those pages you read at my place a while back have been finished, and I've been asked to work on a few more projects," she thought for a moment, "and a couple of magazines have called, so it seems there's plenty of work out there."
"Always a good thing," Edward said, "especially if it keeps you in town."
"I could say the same for you, what have you got on next?"
"Me?" Edward thought for a moment, "I'll have to talk to Eric about that, he tracks all the timing of what I've got going on. I'll have media commitments next month, and then after that I think I'll be in New York for a while."
As he spoke, Edward had kept rubbing his thumb in circles on Bella's arm, unconsciously drawing her closer to him.
"You won't be going overseas for a while then?" Bella asked.
"I'll be staying right here," he replied, watching the slow smile that spread across her face, and knew that a similar smile was appearing on his own.
o * o * o * o
A few days later Edward padded into the kitchen to find Emmett helping himself to an enormous bowl of cereal.
"Morning Bro, where's Bella? I saw her car was gone when we got home last night."
"She had to work today, she'll be over later tonight," Edward yawned as he got out a bowl for himself.
The two men took seats at the table and sat in a companionable silence, shoveling their cereal.
"So I'm guessing you're glad to be home?" Emmett ventured after a while.
Edward raised an eyebrow at him as he chewed.
"Do you think you could be apart from Rose for three months?"
"Hell no," Emmett replied.
"Well there's your answer," Edward said, spooning more cereal.
Emmett gave Edward a long measuring gaze, then nodded and went back to his breakfast.
"So what are you doing today?" Emmett asked when they were rinsing their dishes.
"I'm catching up with Eric, he's got a few things he wants to go over, and I think that's about it. How about you?"
"I'll be at the office with Rose, we're getting some new cars in that she's pretty keen to get her hands on," Emmett replied. "What time are Mom and Dad getting here?"
"Dad called and said they'd be here for dinner tonight."
"Cool. I spoke to Mom earlier, it sounds like they're really looking forward to meeting Bella," Emmett grinned and cuffed Edward on the shoulder with his fist as he walked past, "so no pressure there, pal."
Edward waved Emmett off as he departed, and went back to his breakfast. Since he had been back in town, he and Bella had been dividing their time between his house and her apartment.
There had been some minor adjustments for them to get used to now that they were back in each other's company. The first being the realization that they each had lives that were independent of each other's, and that they were both used to being able to do whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.
Edward had discovered this when he had dropped by Bella's apartment one morning to surprise her, only to discover that she and Angela had gone to their local gym for a workout. Bella had arrived home, sweaty and tired, to discover Edward reading the paper in her living room, with breakfast half eaten.
Bella's discovery had come when Edward had to decline an impromptu dinner invitation at Angela and Ben's place because he had work commitments. She had an enjoyable evening with her friends, and had gotten home to discover Edward being interviewed on E! Network, with hoards of screaming fans in the background. Bella had sat on her sofa watching the interview, marveling that the polished man on the screen was the same one that she had seen goofing around in her kitchen that morning.
o * o * o * o
"So what's it like having Edward at home?" Angela had asked after dinner.
"That good? I'm impressed," said Ben.
Both women looked at him.
"What?" he said then continued, "if a woman is quiet it either means the shit is about to hit the fan, or she's happy about something. Given the grin on our girl here," he pointed at Bella, "it's all good."
"He's right," agreed Bella, shooting Ben an amused glance as he gave an elaborate sigh of relief, "although there's a lot we're getting used to."
"That's only natural," Angela commented, "Ben and I had quite a few hurdles as well, didn't we babe?"
"Oh for sure," Ben agreed, and at Bella's surprise continued, "We discovered early on that our relationship was a mixed marriage, but we managed to overcome that."
"Ben had a PC, I had a Mac," Angela clarified, "but Ben soon saw the error of his ways."
"So you're a Mac guy now?" Bella asked.
"Yup, once I realized that I could either agree with Angela or be wrong, it was a pretty straightforward decision."
"And you've never regretted it have you, Honey?" said Angela with a wink.
"Not for a moment," Ben said in a solemn voice, then sighed, "can I go now?"
"Yes dear, you've done very well," Angela said.
Ben stood up with his glass and gave Bella and Angela a quick kiss before he headed towards Bella's old bedroom, which was now his study.
Bella laughed as she watched him go.
"You know, for a guy he does pretty well with the girl talk," she commented.
"I know, I'm quite pleased with the way he's coming along," Angela replied.
The two of them laughed quietly as Ben piped up with 'I heard that!' from the study.
"Oh and, uh, I'm not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but I'm meeting Edward's parents on the weekend."
"Really?" said Angela, arching an eyebrow as she looked at Bella, "well, well, well."
"Do you know if many other girlfriends have met the parents?"
"Um, Rosalie commented that the last couple didn't."
"I see," Angela said, and sipped her wine, then leaned back slightly in her chair and called out to Ben. "Honey, Bella's going to meet Edward's parents this weekend."
"Really?" came the response.
"Yup, and she's sitting here blushing and trying to act cool," Angela added.
"It's getting serious," was Ben's observation.
"Looks like," Angela agreed, smiling with satisfaction as Bella's blush deepened.
o * o * o * o
"Are you sure I look okay?" Bella had paused on her way out of her apartment with Edward.
"You look gorgeous," he confirmed, dropping a kiss on her shoulder for good measure.
Bella had fussed and worried over what to wear all week, until an exasperated Alice had stepped in and assumed control of the situation.
"Bella, it's simple. Wear this and this with these, and do not depart from that selection in any way, shape or form, and you'll be fine."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. They're going to love you, I can practically see it all now."
"Better watch out," Jasper commented from his desk, "the last time she sounded like that, she started buying bridal magazines the following week."
"And was I right?" Alice said, turning around to face Jasper with a broad grin.
"Yes dear," he answered.
"Whose wedding was that?" Bella asked, curious.
"Ours," Jasper supplied.
Bella looked at herself in the hallway mirror again, and then nodded. Alice was right, she looked good. Great even. Alice had chosen a scoop neck lavender blouse, Bella's butter soft jeans, and some strappy low heeled sandals. A judicious sprinkling of jewelry had completed the look, leaving Bella looking comfortable without being too casual.
"Okay Cullen, let's get this show on the road."
They had barely gotten inside Edward's house when they heard Emmett's voice announcing their arrival.
"He sounds pretty keen," Bella observed as she slung her bag over a chair.
"He knows you come bearing food," Edward replied in a low tone, humming the Jaws theme as they headed outside.
And so it was that the parents' first impression of Bella was a laughing woman emerging on the deck ahead of Edward, holding a container aloft as Emmett bounded towards her.
"Is that what I think it is?" Emmett had asked, whisking the container out of her hands and peering inside, letting out a whoop when he saw the contents.
"You have to share," Bella admonished with a twinkle.
"Good luck with that," Edward observed, before putting his arm around Bella's shoulders and steering her towards the table where his parents were rising up from their seats. "Mom, Dad, this is Bella. Bella, these are my parents, Esme and Carlisle."
"It's such a pleasure to meet you both," said Bella, still laughing from Emmett's reaction.
"Likewise," said Esme, taking Bella's hands in her own, and surprising Bella with a quick hug. As Esme released her, Bella turned to Carlisle, who leaned in and gave her a light kiss of greeting as well.
Rosalie gave a small smile and raised an eyebrow at Emmett, who gave a pleased nod in return.
Looking at Edward's parents, Bella realized it wasn't hard to see why he had been so genetically blessed. Esme had a small build, with luminous eyes and Edward's copper hair. Edward's height had come from Carlisle, along with his chiseled jaw.
As soon as Esme and Carlisle had released Bella, Edward had reached for her straight away, stepping in and holding her close, but beaming with pride at their warm reception as Bella, Carlisle and Esme fell into an easy conversation.
"Check it," Emmett whispered to Rosalie.
"Oh I'm checking," Rosalie whispered back, "those two are a done deal."
o * o * o * o
Dinner had been a wonderfully relaxed affair. Esme had cooked up a storm, producing so many dishes that Bella had wondered aloud if they were going to be able to get through it all.
Rosalie had given Bella a pitying look.
"You're kidding right? Have all the episodes over your cupcakes taught you nothing?"
Everyone had looked at Emmett, who tried to look modest.
"It's just so nice to have a chance to cook for my boys," Esme had said, "I guess I got a little carried away."
"You won't hear me objecting," said Emmett, serving himself with relish.
The conversation ebbed and flowed with ease, punctuated often by laughter. Edward sat back in his chair, his arm around Bella who leaned against him as she chattered to his parents. He rubbed his thumb in lazy circles on her upper arm, and Bella rested a hand on his thigh, glancing at him from time to time with a happy smile.
"Bella, Edward has told us all about your writing, and I have to say that I'm impressed. You have a marvelous way with words," Esme ventured.
Bella looked surprised.
"You've read some of it?"
"Of course! Edward was practically bragging, so I had to go looking, there's quite a lot of it online."
"Really? Oh that's right, I keep forgetting the magazines put a lot of content on their websites now."
"I've been reading it too," Emmett added, "some of that stuff you wrote about the band you toured with was fantastic, I hear they're getting a lot more interest in the industry these days."
"That's what Jacob tells me," Bella replied as she sipped her wine.
"Are you still in touch with those guys?" Rosalie asked out of curiosity, although Edward started paying more attention to the conversation as well.
"Now and then, they still send me copies of their demos which is great, but they're back on tour and Jacob's in love so it sounds like they're all pretty occupied."
"Really?" Edward couldn't hide the pleased tone in his voice.
"Yep, with a sound technician. Her name's Leah and she sounds perfect for him."
"But I'm curious," Rosalie broke in on the conversation, "Bella has your Mom done any checking up on Edward?"
Bella gave Edward a sidelong long as she answered.
"According to Dad, she raided their local Blockbuster and she's working through Edward's back catalogue even as we speak. Knowing her, she's probably doing an internet search as well to see what we're up to."
"I like the sound of her," Esme nodded with approval, "she does the same kind of research that I do."
"Oh god," Edward groaned as everyone laughed.
Bella's cupcakes were produced for desert, to everyone's acclaim but to Emmett's chagrin, as he had obviously counted on having as many to himself as possible. He had brightened considerably when Bella had taken pity on his hangdog expression, and offered to bake him some more.
"Careful Bella," said Carlisle as he bit into a cupcake with obvious enjoyment, "you're creating a monster."
"Emmett's well ahead of you, Dad," Edward commented as he reached out and snagged cupcake for himself, "you've got no idea how far Emmett is prepared to go for these babies."
"It's true," Emmett confirmed, "I even cheapened our relationship by begging."
"True, and I just hate seeing a grown man cry," said Bella.
"I thought it was because you said you were kind to animals," Edward asked in exaggerated confusion.
"You won't get a rise out of me, Bro. I'll go along with anything if it gets me fed."
"I'll have to remember that," commented Rosalie.
o * o * o * o
It wasn't until Edward noticed Bella trying to hold back a yawn that he realized how late the evening was.
"Oh I'm sorry, Bella," Esme said, "we got carried away talking and I lost track of the time."
"It's okay, I've had such a wonderful time I didn't want to leave," Bella explained, then to her mortification had to clap a hand over her mouth as she yawned again, flapping a hand at Edward as if to shoo him away. "Don't look, it's catching!"
"Too late," Edward replied as he yawned as well.
"I think it's as good a time as any to call it a night," commented Carlisle. "How about you kids meet us for brunch tomorrow?"
"Sure," Edward agreed.
"Good, so you just call us and tell us where and when and we'll meet you there."
"Huh?" Edward gave his father a blank look.
"Edward," Carlisle said, slowly shaking his head, "Are you telling me son, that at the age of 31 you'd rather spend the night with your parents, than go home with your girlfriend?"
Bella started to blush as Emmett and Rosalie started to chuckle.
"Uh," Edward began.
"I may look decrepit now, but I was young once too," Carlisle added.
"I remember those days like it was only yesterday, in fact," she said turning to Carlisle with a distinct gleam in her eye, "do you remember when-"
"DAD!" chorused Emmett and Edward.
Carlisle got the message, and promptly kissed Esme, effectively cutting off whatever it was she had been about to say. When they came up for air, Esme was looking decidedly smug.
"Girls," she said as she addressed Rosalie and Bella, "I'll just say this, the Cullen men get better with age."
"And how," said Rosalie, giving Emmett a smug look.
"Yeah okay, we're going!" said Edward, standing up and pulling Bella to her feet.
"Oh Edward you stud," she giggled, "When's your birthday? I've got a whole new appreciation of the ageing process!"
As Bella stood exchanging fond farewells with his family, Edward stood back and watched her, his mind a kaleidoscope of Bella laughing at him over breakfast, Emmett's reaction when he tasted her cupcakes for the first time, Bella and Rosalie doubled over with laughter at the racetrack, the look on her face when he got home, Bella teasing Angela and Ben, and underneath it all, seriously hampering any rational thought, her heat and softness as they loved together, the sounds she made as she wrapped herself around him, the look on her face when she came, and the way she curled against him when it was over.
This time, he knew he'd gotten it right, and on the inside, he glowed with the knowledge that he hadn't just fallen in love with her, but that he knew he would be falling for her, for a very long time to come.