Chapter 27

This is exactly how it should feel when it's meant to be

Time is only wasting so why wait for eventually

If we gon' do something 'bout it

We should do it right now

Unthinkable (I'm Ready) - Alicia Keys

I closed my eyes and slowly reopened them, wanting to be sure I wasn't hallucinating. Had I conjured Bella? My mind had to be playing tricks on me. I shook my head, wondering if I should pinch myself. Or pinch her for that matter!

"May I come in?"

God, even the imagined voice is perfect.

"Room service. Oh, will you require place settings for two?"

It couldn't be real. The whiskey I'd downed had to have been laced with something. That or the last week had been more taxing on my psyche than I'd thought.

I remained immobile.

"Service for one is okay," she said when I made no attempt to speak or move. Gathering the contents of the tray, she took the bills from my hand and tipped the bellhop before kindly dismissing him.

"May I come in now?" Imaginary Bella asked, hovering at the entrance. "I have your food,'' she added, as if she weren't incentive enough. I stepped away from the doorway to allow her to pass.

"Yeah, sure," I said belatedly. And when she walked past, I pinched her.

"Edward, I'm real!" she yelped, tightly clutching the tray when its contents began to shift.

Bella placed the tray on the counter before removing her backpack and dropping it to the floor. She turned to look at me and then I really saw her. She looked as tired as I felt, but even in her weary state, she was captivating.

Her hair was in a high ponytail, the end of which was draped over her shoulder. She wore a simple white tee with low slung jeans. And when she moved, her shirt would rise, revealing her bare midriff. The unmistakable spartan-blue and gray jacket she wore belonged to me. If I needed confirmation, the bold black letters on the back spelling out Masen were proof.

"I hadn't noticed it was missing," I said, pointing to the jacket. I didn't know what I'd planned on saying, but that definitely wasn't it.

"Uh, you can have it back, of course," she started, already removing it. "I just…"

I shook my head, wanting her to stop. Because the feeling I got from seeing my name branded across her back after all of this time... She could wear it forever. The electric hum between us was palpable, and I wondered how'd I gotten used to its absence.

"You're here," I whispered, and my feet moved forward of their own volition. I wasn't sure who reached out first, but seconds later we were wrapped in each other's arms. Her grip was unyielding, as if she wanted to consume me.

I'd allow her.

We stood there forever and yet not long enough. Eventually I loosened my grip, pressed my lips to the top of her head before putting distance between us. I tried to make sense of her presence but promptly realized I didn't care how or why she was there. She opened her mouth to speak, but I gently silenced her. After everything, I just couldn't. I was spent and had nothing left to give.

"Not tonight," I plead, seeing my worn expression reflected in hers.

Bella didn't argue, instead she nodded and turned her back to me. After a moment of hesitation, she grabbed her bag. Immediately shouldering it, she made her way back to the door.

"Tomorrow then? If that's okay," she asked. At my baffled expression, she rushed to correct herself. "Or the day after. Or after that even. I reserved a room not too far from here, so just text me if you…" I'd never known Bella to ramble.

I scrubbed my face with the palms of my hands and approached her. Without a word, I took the bag from her and abruptly discarded it. I went to remove the jacket, and she assisted, letting it fall to the ground. Then, I led her to the bed and kneeled in front of her to take off her shoes. With a sigh, I sat beside her before reaching around to turn off the lamp.

Everything could wait.

Pulling her with me, I repositioned myself until we were both lying comfortably on the bed. I felt her press a kiss right above my heart and moments later, sleep claimed me.

When I woke up, it was still before dawn and I was ravenous. I couldn't decide whether the urgency of my bladder or my appetite should be sated first. My bladder quickly won out and I moved to extricate myself from Bella's arms.


It hadn't been a dream but a product of manifestation. I stayed put.

As I laid there, I thought about the last several weeks. There were so many emotions to contend with. I was elated that I'd finally confronted my father, even though the final outcome of that conversation was yet to be determined. The disappointment I felt at my mother for being so callous was expected, but still highly upsetting. And then there was Bella...I wanted her, I was sick of waiting. Whatever it was we needed to do to make things work, I was confident that we could.

My issue was how I wanted her, it still felt like need. Wasn't it my obsessive need that drove us apart? I'd been working through my attachment to her, my attachment to unrealistic scenarios as a whole. And silencing those emotions in theory was challenging, yet doable. However in Bella's presence they surged, and became all-consuming.

The frustration of trying to deal with everything at once was too fucking much.

Slowly removing myself from Bella's embrace did nothing to stop the electric hum that ran between us. Only distance could do that. I needed to sort things out in my own head before we could talk, and I needed space to do that. With that in mind, I used the restroom and quietly left the room.

"I'm feeling oddly dependent on you and that can't be healthy either," I chuckled, not discomfited.

"It's not 'dependency,' but you already know that. At the most, you've only allowed me to be a sounding board," Senna said.

I'd ordered breakfast from the hotels' restaurant and was sitting in the far corner people-watching. It reminded me of the first time Bella and I went on a date, if you could even call it that. I couldn't help but smile as I thought of what she'd say about the few people passing by.

Cursing myself for doing so the day after Christmas, and early in the morning at that, I'd called Senna who'd answered immediately with a cheery 'good morning.'

"And it's okay to be frustrated," Senna continued, oblivious to my inner monologue. "You've made significant progress. And suddenly the people who you felt drove you to your breaking point reappear? That's a lot to confront," she agreed.

"Nonetheless, where would you rather be? The here and now, content though flustered? Processing these emotions on your own with the knowledge that if nothing changed, you would still be okay? Or would you go back in time, where your happiness heavily depended on the presence of others and the unrealistic expectations that you placed on them? Expectations that they may have never lived up to. Reality may not be what you pegged, Edward. But trust me, it is so much more rewarding," she promised.

She was so fucking right, and I told her just that. I'd glossed over Bella's arrival and told her I'd see her in two weeks at our normally scheduled time and place.

"And Edward," she said, catching me before I ended the call. "It's okay to need comfort, that's human. Being able to get that from someone who's clearly in love with you? Well, not everyone is lucky enough to experience that. The strength of your feelings doesn't erase what you've learned. The measure of victory will be in how you put it into practice. How will you control your feelings when that need presents itself? You got this. Happy Holidays!" she added, and I could practically feel her smirking.

Apparently I had failed at my attempt to mask the real reason for the call.

It was worth the embarrassment though.I needed the reminder that it was all about control. I couldn't control people. Not their thoughts, emotions, or decisions. I could only accept the reality of my situation and decide from there how I would let it shape my life.

I was by no means powerless. I didn't have to live with their choices, only my own.

Senna liked to stress that the universe knew what it was doing. "We don't lose anything or anyone, they are simply removed in order to make room for better," she'd say. I was starting to believe that.

The Cullen's entered my life when I needed them most. I had no idea that relations with my own parents would reach the point that they had. But under no obligation, Carlisle and Esme took me under their wing. I was eternally grateful for their constant love and concern. They were better than what I'd lost and I didnt think it was mere coincidence. If I had to credit the "universe" for that turn of events, I would.

But Bella.

Bella was different. I both wanted and needed her in my life and I couldn't imagine myself with anyone else. I would only ask the universe to make us better versions of ourselves so that we could persevere together.

After finishing my breakfast, I headed back to the room. One way or another, I was ready.

Bella was sleeping as peacefully as she was when I'd left. Her hair fanned out over the pillow and her outstretched arm covered the spot I'd been only an hour before. It was a little past 6:00 in the morning and the sun hadn't fully made an appearance.

She was clearly tired and needed rest, but the selfish part of me wanted to wake her. Sighing heavily, I removed my shoes and took my previous position. I'd just admire the view until she stirred.

"Edward, wake up." I felt fingers playing in the tiny hairs as the back of my neck. The action was slowly lulling me back to sleep.

"Edward." I opened my eyes and turned to find Bella staring at me, her hand frozen in midair. She dropped her hand and moved backwards.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to fall asleep," I yawned. She sat still as a statue, but her eyes darted from the desk chair to the door. Unsure if she were planning an escape or just wanted to put space between us, I decided to speak first. I sat up while I searched for the right words to begin.

"This is incredibly awkward," Bella said first, and I couldn't help but smile.

"That it is," I agreed. "But in for a penny, in for a pound. Right?" I said, pulling her by the waist back to the center of the bed. I crossed my legs beneath me, coaxing her to mirror my position. When we were so close that our knees touched, I reached for her hands.

"Together," I said, reminding her of the promise we'd made long ago.

"Together," she repeated, interlacing our fingers but failing to make eye contact with me.

"I don't know where to start, Edward. There's so much I feel I need to explain. Things I need to apologize for," she said. After a long pause, I squeezed her hand to reassure her.

"It's funny," she began again, but her face showed no traces of humor. "There were a thousand reasons I could've given you for why I needed a breather from this, from us. But sitting here with you now, being with you, and feeling this," she said, releasing one hand to trace a finger down my forearm. Tiny sparks followed in its wake. "Well, I can only think of a thousand reasons why I need you to breathe."

I was torn between encouraging her to continue and stopping her all together. If she wanted me in the same way that I wanted her, she didn't need to say anything more. She would be mine. I didn't care about the past, only the now, only our future.

"I love you," I blurted out and she finally looked me in the eyes.

"Still?" she asked.

"Forever," I confirmed, wiping a lone tear from her cheek. "We can, we will talk about everything, but there are some things I want to say.

First, I am in love with you. Currently, actively, impatiently even, and I am learning to love myself just as much. I'll try not to let any of my insecurities negatively impact the love I have for you. The mistake I made was thinking that I needed to be with you to be whole. But I was wrong, so fucking wrong. I need to be whole to be with you, and that's what I'm working on.

Secondly, my perspective has been skewed since birth. Forasmuch as I will try to see and understand things from your point of view, I might miss some things. Some things may not make sense to me at all. But there is nothing I'm unwilling to learn, or unlearn for that matter, for our sake," I took a breath and Bella moved impossibly closer.

"I won't willfully allow anything to hurt you. But you can't make assumptions about what I do and don't know. What I should and shouldn't understand. I'm asking that you have patience with me. What I can't teach myself, please love me enough to show me. Teach me how to love you entirely."

By that point, I was the one that had lost eye contact, but I needed to get through this without being distracted by her beauty, her tears or by my complete need for her.

"I probably should've said this first, but I am sorry. I can see how I put so much on you, and what those demands did to us. Most of that had little to do with you and everything to do with my family. And when I gave it all up only to lose you...I was devastated. I should've gotten help sooner, or talked it out as I clearly was not "fine" but I've been working on that too." I stopped, looking for the words to explain this concern.

"I am his son, Bella," I choked out. "There are things...things I'm afraid might be lying dormant in me…"

"You're not that," she stated fiercely, leaving no room for argument. "You may have benefited from your privilege, and you may have been blind. But I know your heart, and there is no hate in it."

"But didn't you know my heart before? That didn't stop you from assuming I was working some slave-owner angle. That you were a fetish for me." I pointed out, because this was important. If we couldn't clear this up, there was no point.

"I'm not saying I don't still have those asshole tendencies. I'm saying that I will never not want you to be safe. If that means fixing things, adding extra locks, being worried when we aren't together, then I'll do it. I understand now that there is a point where it becomes overbearing, but I'm still me. Not Mike, not Renee trying to control you, but Edward who has no hidden motive.

Bella, if you weren't black, I would treat you the same way because of the love I have for you. I understand why you see it the way you do, given your own history, but please offer me the same courtesy and see it through my eyes. I was expressing my love the only way I knew how to.

I do want to own you. Not out of some sick fantasy, but in every way imaginable. I want to own your body, your soul, but mostly your heart. That," I hesitated, not knowing how to explain that raw, visceral urge. That need to constantly claim her…"that will always be a part of me. I don't know how it will manifest itself between us, but if this is something you want, I need you to get that."

My thoughts had quickly become jumbled with everything I wanted to say. I was worried I would forget something if I didn't lay it all on the line. But really, it boiled down to one point.

"Bella, I know I'm strong enough to handle it if you decide that this is too much, too intense and you want to walk away. I'm strong enough in this moment," I clarified and my voice cracked. Because was I really?

"But if you want an out, please take it now...I don't know if I can handle losing you again."

I wasn't exactly sure when Bella moved to my lap or when I'd started crying until she began to kiss the wetness away.

"I would never discourage your growth, Edward. I see who you are now and I can't wait to see what you'll become so I can be patient. I am unconditionally and irrevocably in love with you. I don't need an out, just you," Bella played with my beard before nudging my chin upward. "We will be okay," she vowed.

Cradling her closer, I placed a kiss to her forehead, putting my faith in us once again.

We spent most of the day in bed catching up. I filled her in on my dad's condition and my mother's negligence. I told her about my classes and work, how I felt closer to knowing what I wanted to do with my life.

In turn, Bella told me about her finals and how she'd secured a position at the public library and would be leaving Brewed Awakenings soon. She'd told her dad about the incident with Jasper and he wouldn't tell her more than "it's handled." She moved to a one bedroom in the same complex and hadn't seen him since.

During her last work shift, it was Tanya that told her about my departure, informing her it was a permanent relocation.

"You believed her? I thought you didn't trust her," I laughed.

"I don't. Well, I didn't," she admitted. "We've been trying to work things out and I didn't think she was being spiteful when she told me. And the only thing I could gather from Em before he left for break was that you had "family business" to attend to. I finally caved and asked Esme to tell me exactly where you were. I didn't know about things with your dad," she frowned.

"But why? Why did you come at all? I asked, wishing I could read her mind.

"In short, because I love you and I thought I'd lost you forever,"she shrugged, and I rolled my eyes. "Fine," she said, lowering her chin to her chest.

Oh how I missed the Bella-blush.

"I hated being away from you but my pride wouldn't let me actually do anything about it. At least that's how I felt the first day. After that, I had to reaffirm to myself that we needed a break," when she saw me look at her quizzically, she corrected herself.

"We did! I just recognized it first," she defended, gracing me with her laughter.

"You're right, you're right. I just didn't see it that way at the time," I offered. Bella gave me her best 'I told you so' look before continuing.

"Then, I thought about all you gave up for me and I felt awful. Still, I knew we couldn't continue down the path we were headed. Not if we really wanted a future together. One of us would've eventually grown to resent the other."

She reached for my hand then and I knew I wasn't going to like what she had to say.

"I felt powerless with you. Like I was less than. I was no longer allowed to make my own decisions or handle anything by myself. And whenever I'd try to reclaim some of that power, I felt I was letting you down. Making you regret fighting with your dad over me. I was torn because it was like I was seeing two different sides of you. The lover and the oppressor,"she explained.

"How I handled things with my dad is on me." I interjected, not wanting her to carry that weight into our new beginning."You may have been the catalyst but that was years in the making." Her face was a blank mask, giving nothing away as she nodded to let me know she understood; but that there was something I was still missing.

"After replaying our fight over and over again in my head, I realized that you thought because I was ending it, that I didn't love you. That maybe I never did, and that was the furthest thing from the truth. I wrote you the note that day," she explained.

"I needed you to know I loved you and wanted you but I wasn't sure where you stood. I should've just talked to you. I'm sorry," she stated, and I stopped her, pulling her to me to press my lips against hers. It was a chaste kiss, the same as all the kisses we'd share since she'd arrived, but that didn't diminish its intensity.

"You told me, I just didn't listen," I conceded.

"I should have made you listen," she insisted, nuzzling into the nook she'd carved out under my chin."If there is ever an issue, I promise to make sure you fully understand. At least as much as I possibly can."

And the day continued that way. Secrets were revealed and the intimacy we shared in that bed was greater than anything we'd shared during our coupling.

Eventually her stomach growled and we needed to attend to our basic human needs. Bella got up to shower and dress, while I excused myself under the guise of getting restaurant recommendations from the front desk. Truthfully, my body wanted to be as satisfied as my soul, and it was getting harder to hide my body's natural reaction. The need to claim her lingered just beneath the surface, and its ferocity had only grown.

I wasn't ready for that. I still felt the need to give her time to take the "out."

The concierge directed me to a few eateries at Burrard Dry Dock Pier, and though it was still chilly out, I knew the fresh air would do us good.

When I returned, she was lotioning her legs, and the smile she gave me upon my entrance was resplendent. Perhaps I lingered too long relishing in her happiness, but I eventually made my way into the restroom to ready myself for the day.

"How was your break?" Esme asked, not even attempting to hide her smile.

"Good," I said simply, but my answering grin gave me away.

It had been four weeks since Bella and I had reconnected and renewed our promises to each other. Two weeks since we'd found out that Rosalie had agreed to wait for the wedding of her dreams. Yet, refused to wait for Emmett. They'd eloped shortly after the New Year. It had been eight days since we'd told everyone that we were back together.

It was however, the first week I'd rejoined Sunday brunch, bringing Tanya along with me. It seems that it was the season for healing old bonds and forging ahead. Rosalie needed to clear the air with her sister as she entered a new chapter in her life, and she needed Bella to do the same. They were family after all. I was beginning to see that we all were. I thought about all that had transpired and despite any uncertainties that remained, I felt good about the road ahead.

"Damnit, Emmett, put it back!" Rosalie demanded.

"...tried to warn you," Bella said through a fit of giggles. The sound was music to my ears.

"Bell-zee, help!"

"Rose...No!" Tanya exclaimed before we heard a loud "yelp" from Emmett.

"I'll just go and see if Emmett requires medical attention," Carlisle laughed before leaving to join the mayhem.

I was studying at the campus library but my mind had long since drifted away from my biology notes. In my self-made world of checks and balances, I'd avoided using the city's public library even though they had a better selection of material. I didn't want Bella to ever feel smothered by me, so showing up to her job was a definite no. She'd told me I was welcome anytime, but my refusal was just as much for me as it was for her. I needed to keep my own routine.

It was late in February and I'd noticed a display of books set up in honor of Black History month. I read through the titles, thumbing through a few, finally settling on a book about Mildred and Richard Loving.

"I've been admiring you."

Bella's voice caught me off guard and I fumbled the book before looking up. I gazed into her deep brown eyes, trying to root myself in the present day. The here and now.

"Really? And how long have you been here?" I asked distractedly.

"At least an hour. I was sitting there," she pointed to a recliner across from me in the periodicals,"staring at you. You were deep in thought and I didn't want to disturb you. Daydreaming?" she asked. My mind was troubled and I couldn't hold it in.

"Did you know just a little over forty years ago, it would've been illegal for me to marry you? Like, we could actually go to jail. Well, I'd probably pay a fine but you…the things that could have been done to you," and suddenly I found the process of inhaling and exhaling difficult.

Her face became a blank mask as she nodded her head, not needing further clarification. I'd seen this expression before but It only now made sense to me.

"Not 400 years ago, or even fifty years ago, but while my dad was in his thirties!" Bella already knew, she'd always known this. She lived this and still walked around like being with me was the easiest thing in the world.

"Mildred was a strong woman," she simply said, walking over to console me. I kissed the back of her hand in appreciation as I pulled a chair out for her to sit. I wouldn't allow her to alleviate these feelings.

"You say that and yet you are trying to comfort me." I shook my head. "You know, I still think about it," I said, remembering the night I'd found her with Jasper, yet seeing the situation through a new lens.

I shuddered to think what could've happened to her if I hadn't arrived when I did. Not that she couldn't protect herself, but what if she'd been overpowered? And if that wasn't disgusting in and of itself, I'd dragged her out of there in front of everyone like she was my property. Then proceeded to question her on why she put herself in that situation, as if it were somehow her fault.

Fifty years ago that would've been acceptable.

"I think about the way I acted without conscious effort, falling into every stereotype you may have had. And I'm sorry. I'm really fucking sorry. I'm sorry that the only person I really needed to protect you from was myself. And I was too blind, too selfish to properly do that. I'm not like my father. But the way that privilege has shaped me has made it difficult for me to see things in any way that doesn't line up with my experience. I'm no longer ignorant to that fact and I won't let it blind me again.

"I promise," I said, waiting for Bella to say something, anything. Yet, she remained quiet. I sighed and collected our things, then led her to the exit. The only proof that she'd heard anything I said was the vice-grip she kept on my hand.

The trek across campus to my dorm room was swift with both of us lost in our thoughts. We'd made small talk, asking about each other's day before deciding to call it a night.

Where we would stay the night depended on our work and school schedules. Since I had class and Bella was free the next day, we'd be crashing at my place. We made quick work of our nightly routines, killed the lights and hopped into bed.

"I love you, you know?" I asked. I had no doubt that she did, but no matter what, I liked it to be the last thing she heard at night and the first thing she heard in the morning.

"I know," she replied, inching closer to me.

I was awakened by the caress of Bella's hand slowly brushing across my abdomen. I glanced at the clock to see it was only a little past midnight.

"Have you slept?" I tiredly asked, only to be met with silence.

Her hand continued its path, pausing occasionally to play with the hair leading to my cock before circling back and starting all over again. I felt myself hardening under her touch, my abs tensing with every downward stroke. I blindly turned to seek her lips and she eagerly met mine. She pulled and sucked as her hand dipped below my waistband to grasp me fully. I groaned, loving the sensation, something I'd been without for too long.

That thought broke through my lust addled brain and I stilled her hand. We hadn't crossed this invisible line since we'd gotten back together. And I couldn't say who drew the line or why it was drawn, but we'd both respected it.

"Are you sure?" I asked, and received no verbal answer.

I turned more fully towards her and she took the opportunity to slip my cock completely out of my boxers. Stroking me with skillful fingers, I leaned in again, dipping my tongue into her mouth in hopes of producing words. My hand which had been stroking her arm began to move over her body only to discover that the bra and panties she'd gotten into bed with were long gone, she was completely naked.

When I cupped her ass and hitched her leg over my waist she moaned, her wetness coming into direct contact with my cock. She released me from the now awkward angle and began kissing my chin, licking my Adam's apple before she worked her way up to my ear lobe.

"Bella?" It was a plea. 'Talk to me." She pushed me on my back and worked my boxers down until they were off. Before I could ask again, she spoke.

"I know," she said and the tone of her voice was something I'd never heard. She ran her fingers up and down my chest as she straddled me, slowly gyrating her hips.

"I know," she repeated, kissing her way down my chest and stopping to lick, then bite a nipple. I moaned , feeling intoxicated by her.

I repositioned myself to place my back against the headboard, and recaptured her lips once they were in reach. She moaned then as I captured a breast in each hand, testing their weight before rolling her nipples between my fingers.

"I know," she managed through a gasp as her hand snaked between our bodies to play with the head of my cock.

"I love you, Bella," I proclaimed, because I did, more than anything. Because now I got it. Because I knew what it cost her, because I knew what we would face. She positioned herself above me and casually sat on my cock not allowing me time to adjust to the sensation of being squeezed by her heat.

"I know, Edward. I really know." And her moans started to sound like quiet sobs as she undulated above me. As gently as possible I tried to stop her but she continued to move.

She looked at me directly, maintaining eye contact as she placed a kiss above my heart. Then I understood, I saw the moment she submitted. Gifting me total control of the only thing I truly desired; her heart.

I love you. I love you. I love you. I love you.

And I didn't realize who was speaking, her or I. Turning us over, I laid her gently on her back and showed her how much I loved her. How sacred every part of her being was to me. I worshiped her breasts, her navel, her clit.

Her heart, her soul. My queen.

Every part of her was painstakingly reverenced until she was on edge. Then I stopped, kissing her, showing her that we were partners. Showing her that she owned me as well.

My heart, my soul, my body. Hers.

"Queen," I exhaled, because I would gladly worship her for life.

"I love you, I see now, I love you, thank you for loving me," I continued worshiping her to an answering chorus of, "I know. Love you. I know now."

I held her as I watched her fall apart, massaging her until the tremors ceased. Then she was moving away from me, sliding down the length of my body. She was putting me in her mouth, humming a melody of 'I know' and 'I love you' all over again as I exploded into warmth and wet and heaven. And even then, I craved more.

Soon I realized why we'd drawn the line, why we'd delayed this reunion. It wasn't about us falling in love again, because everything that falls ends up broken. We needed a solid foundation, not one built on past pain, but on fertile soil. We would grow in love. We would bloom in it.

Our lovemaking continued with intermittent periods of rest, with classes missed, and calls ignored. With I love you and I know and be patient and I see now and I'll learn and I'll teach you and forever.

"I love you," Bella breathed.

"I know."