Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, that honor belongs to my Queen...Stephenie Meyer.
Hey Party People,
Well for those who are still here...
Sorry for the delay. As usual I over thought this chapter and once I shaved...1500 words it flowed! Hope you like it! And I mean it when I say this...THANK YOU FOR READING! It truly means the world to me. Have a great weekend!
Until the next episode...
And tell the Devil that he can go back from where he came
His fiery arrows drew their bead in vain
And when when the hardest part is over, we'll be here
And our dreams will break the boundaries of our fear
The boundaries of our fear
Crashing waves are considered a soothing sound and I usually would agree, but when your bladder is full it is the most aggravating noise in the world. I tried to block it out and was almost successful until Edward's arms tightened around my waist. And I knew I couldn't ignore that full feeling anymore. I reluctantly opened my eyes to a half sunlit room; our clothes and blankets littered the floor.
I could not hold back the smile as I thought about Edward's proposal and him finally making love to me. The proposal came out of left field; I assumed he'd wait until after my divorce was finalized or had a house. At the rate my divorce was going, I thought we'd have a house first. I slowly crept out of bed and went to the bathroom to relieve myself.
When I returned to our room Edward was still in a deep sleep. I grabbed the shirt he wore last night off the floor and went downstairs to get my phone, that was still charging on the kitchen counter; I grabbed it and quickly snapped a photo to send to Jake with a message that simply read: Shhhh don't tell... :)
Jake: OMG is this what I think it is?
Jake: Holy hell! Tell him he better call me when he wakes up! I have to have the brother talk with him.
Bella: LOL oh puleeze! You're the first to know so keep your trap shut!
Jake: Really? I'm the first? Before Ace?
Bella: Yes even before Ace. I will tell them when I see them but I wanted you to be the first to know.
Instead of a text Jake called. "Hey Bells."
"Hi Jake," I whispered. "So what do you think?"
"Honestly I'm so fucking happy for you, I truly am. And I know Cullen makes you happy. I didn't want to say it through a text," he said. "I'm just so happy you're happy."
I giggled. "I am truly happy. I never knew I could be this happy."
"I know. I'm just glad you're taking a chance on what you truly want."
"Its scary but worth it."
"I agree," he replied. "Tell Cullen to call me when he gets up."
"Why? For this brother talk?"
"Hell yah! I'm not making the same mistake twice. He needs to know if he doesn't treat you like his fucking Queen I will break all his teeth," he said.
"Jake," I hissed.
"No, I'm serious," he interrupted. "It needs to be said."
"Jake," I tried again. "You know Edward would never be like that."
"Logically I know this, but there's a side of me that will always worry," Jake said quietly.
"You're being irrational... but I understand."
"I love you Bells."
"Love ya, Jake," I said back. "And remember..."
"This is a secret," he finished. "Well hurry up and tell. I'm too happy not to blurt it out to Leah."
I giggled and we said our goodbyes. I knew Jake would always have my back just as I knew Edward would always be there for me.
I quietly entered the bedroom to see Edward was still knocked out; after the night we had I was not surprised. I removed the shirt and slipped carefully back into bed. I was still tired but no longer sleepy. I rolled onto my back and thought about what kind of wedding I wanted to have, I knew I wanted something small.
But not in Forks. I shivered at the thought of getting remarried out there.
It was a moot point to plan a wedding when you're still married; but a girl could dream. I raised my hand up towards the sunlight and stared at my ring.
"Do you like it?" Edward asked his voiced still husky and his beautiful eyes pensive.
How could he not think I'd love it? "Like it? No, I love it! It's beautiful," I replied and cuddled next to him. I loved the skin to skin contact; my body always felt alive next to him, but now it's at a whole new level of crazy this morning. "But you do realize you went over the twenty-five dollar limit."
He chuckled softly. "Actually I didn't spend a dime."
I frowned. "Not to sound ungrateful but did you get my ring from a swag bag?" In New York everyone who performed received a nice swag bag with some nice designer trinkets and other freebies.
"Oh Lord no!" he assured me. "It was my mother's."
"This was Esme's? Was it her engagement ring?"
"No, not her engagement ring…..actually I think she said Alice is getting that one day," he said absently. "My dad presented my mom with a piece of jewelry with our birthstone when we were born. When Emmett was born she got a necklace, with Alice it was a bracelet and with me she received a ring."
This was his mother's ring, this ring was even more precious than I realized. "Why did you give it to me?"
"I wasn't looking for a ring per se, but when I did come across engagement rings nothing said – 'Bella'. Thankfully, you're not into bling so I didn't feel pressured into getting the biggest diamond, but at the same time I didn't want to get a gumball ring."
"I would have been happy with a gold band."
"I know, you're actually very easy to please. But I said if I give you something it would be a ring that represented 'us' and this ring always popped in my head," he explained softly as he took my hand in his and stared at the ring he placed on it last night. "When my Dad gave mom this ring it was to represent the life they created together. And we are going to create something beautiful together – I know it."
My heart thumped so wildly I thought it was going to explode from my chest. Just when I didn't think I could love this man more he proved me wrong. I knew the future would have some bumpy roads – far from perfection but perfection was overrated. I threw caution to the wind and kissed him. For once he wasn't hesitant or cautious, he met my lips and we went with our instincts. Our bodies came alive with each touch and caress. A nip here and a peck there had us panting. I groaned when Edward fingers met my slick mound, my body pulsated with need. As if he understood, he removed his hand and replaced it with his cock.
I'm addicted to this feeling. I'm addicted to this man.
"Give me the green light. Give me just one night; I'm ready to go right now, I'm ready to go right now," I sang loudly along with John Legend as I cleaned the bathroom in the bungalow Edward and I were going to use the duration of our trip. Technically it was already clean because Rachel had a cleaning crew in here the other day but I still felt the need to wipe the bathroom down. Edward said it was my OCD in full effect but I like to believe I was just being thorough.
The song was abruptly cut short indicating an incoming call, when I saw it was Jenks I answered immediately. "Jenks! How are you?"
"Hey Bella, I'm good," she said cautiously.
I took a deep breathe because I knew she was not calling me unless she had new information. "So what did you find?" I asked and walked out of the confining bathroom.
Jenks cleared her throat, "I found a cancelled check from an insurance company for the ruby choker."
"Are you sure it's the same choker?"
"Yeah a photo was included in the report."
I felt as though I was punched in the gut. "So it was stolen?"
"It appears that way. The person who made the claim passed away about fifteen years ago. Thankfully his son is still alive and I left a message with his personal assistant."
"I'm hoping he can offer some insight on the thief but I was told he will be out of the country until the first of the year."
"Jenks, do you have a time table of when the necklace was stolen?" I asked.
"Let's see," Jenks murmured. "According to the police report the necklace was taken during a Valentine's Day party and reported to the Insurance agency on February sixteenth."
"1984," Jenks replied. My heart pound against my chest, I could barely breathe and no words were forming. "Bella please don't freak out on me, we don't know if they were involved. I spoke with the lead detective and he's willing to share his files. He said he would FedEx them to Seattle, so I should have them in a few days."
"I'm trying not to freak out but it's hard, you know?" I said softly.
"I know and I wish I didn't have to give you bad news before the holidays."
"It's no biggie just a day in the life of Isabella Swan," I said with a humorless chuckle and ended the call. Like Edward said it doesn't matter who they were before. The image of my mother may be a little tainted but it will never change my love for her. And I refuse to give into tears. In fact I decided to tackle making the bed.
"Need any help?"
I turned to see Rachel in the bedroom door way. "No, I got it," I said as I spread the fitted sheet over the bed which kept popping up from opposite direction. Normally making the bed would be a relaxing task but I was so wound up I wasn't making much head way.
"Okay," she said drawing out the word and eyed me skeptically. "Well, I brought the last of your suitcases and left them in the living room."
I nodded distractedly not really paying attention to what she was saying. I wanted to calm down before I spoke to Edward about my phone call with Jenks. I did not want to breakdown, yet again, about this damn box.
"Hey what's going on?" Rachel asked but I shook my head not ready to talk about it. "Listen, I know I'm not Jake or Edward but if you need to talk, I'm here for you. Come on talk to me, I'll be your therapist."
I giggled because that's something Jake would say to me. "I'm being silly. I just received a call from the private detective I recently hired."
"The one you hired to look into your mother's past?" she asked. I cocked my eyebrow at her question. "Jake told me a few weeks ago, when he said my dad finally gave you the box. If you don't mind me asking, what did they say?"
So I told her about the cancelled insurance check Jenks found. "At this point I don't know if my mother was even named as a suspect, but with the choker sitting in my mother's box….as you can see...this looks bad."
"Renee Swan…...a thief?" she asked dubiously. All I could do is nod. "Sorry that doesn't fit the woman I knew."
"I agree, but I was just a kid. I knew her as my fun and not quite normal mom; not….a cat burglar who steal jewels in the middle of the night."
Rachel let out a soft chuckle. "I'll say it again – doesn't fit. I don't see Charlie harboring a fugitive; the law was too embedded in his blood. Besides, I remember when I first met your mom…..sorry, Renee a thief - it's simply laughable."
"What makes you think she wasn't involved?" I asked curiously.
"You want me to be truthful or shall I sugarcoat it?"
"Just tell me."
"First let me say, I loved Renee," Rachel said as she eyed me carefully. "But when I first met her – I couldn't stand her." I remained silent as I absorbed her words and told her to continue on. "I don't know how to explain it. Renee was a nice woman but she was…..for lack of a better word…..uppity."
"Uppity?" I've never in my life heard my mother described as uppity. Free spirited, hippie-ish, even absent minded but never uppity.
Rachel nodded. "Like I said she was nice but she had an air about her that made my mom nervous," she said. My mom made Sarah nervous? After a moment of silence she apologized for her words.
"No, don't apologize. I'm just stunned, it's not how remember her."
"No offense but everyone puts her on a pedestal – you, Jake and my Dad, hell all of Forks. But Renee had her faults and because no one wants to speak ill of the dead they will not talk about when she first arrived in Forks. No one talks about how she looked down at us; like our homes and food were not good enough," Rachel explained.
"So you're saying she was a snob?" I asked disbelievingly, anger slowly seeped into my veins. How can Rachel claim to love my mother in one breath and this make her sound like this obnoxious hateful person the next?
Rachel nodded. "In a word – yes. She knew absolutely nothing about house cleaning or cooking. Charlie asked my mom to teach her how to do small tasks like laundry. But whenever we went over there she was too weak from morning sickness to do anything. So my mom and I would clean and leave."
As quickly as the anger began it evaporated as I digested Rachel's words. "Are you saying you and Sarah became her…..maids?" I asked in disbelief.
"Yes, if you would have seen her you would have thought she was the first woman to experience morning sickness," she said. "But when Charlie caught wind of what was going on he went ballistic. In fact he stayed and supervised when my mom would teach her stuff. Once she let go of…..of her hoity-toity ways, she was great and learned quickly. Well except cooking, the woman couldn't cook to save her life."
My mother was the poor little rich girl. It was common knowledge my mother could not cook and my father was not much better. I would get tired of eating at the local diner and use to beg Sarah to teach me, but I was not allowed to cook anything unsupervised until I was around ten.
"One of the last times Renee, my mom and I were together was when they helped me get ready for the spring formal. Renee took me shopping for a dress – her eye for fashion was unreal; especially to a small town girl like me. But to 'spruce' up my dress she let me borrow a few items from the box. I'd seen it over the years but never actually opened it. She just said it'd been in her family for years and when I asked about her family, she shut down."
Her family? My mom always said her parents were dead. "Did she ever say where she was from?" I asked suddenly. Jenks main problem with her investigation was the lack of a beginning, my mom just appeared on paper but she had to have started somewhere.
Rachel shook her head. "I want to say the mid-west, maybe Chicago but I could be wrong," she said and then looked at her watch. "Sorry I have to get to the airport to pick up the Cullen's. I hope I was able to help."
"Yeah, you gave me a lot to think about," I replied offhandedly. Once Rachel left I quickly called Jenks back and relayed our conversation.
"Chicago? I have a feeling we're on the right path….a long winded path but heading in the right direction. Okay, I'm going to make plans to head back to Chicago after Christmas," Jenks replied and then quickly hung up before I could get in a word edgewise. Suddenly I was numb and desperately wanted to run to Edward for comfort but I didn't. I knew he would give me whatever I needed, but I had to pull it together.
I took a deep calming breath and concentrated on Rachel's words. My parents were not thieves and this was a comfort, my dad believed in the law and the system. So many questions raced through my mind. How did the jewels come into her possession? If she didn't steal the jewels then why was the choker reported stolen? Did my Dad know about the report? With each question I was accompanied with a seed of doubt. The numbness began to fade and the tightness in my chest grew.
For the next half hour I kept myself occupied by putting away our belongings and organizing our clothes. As I stared at Edward's boxer briefs in my hands, it hit me...I was about to become Edward's wife – a real wife. With James I was everything from a punching bag to a body he fucked when he was angry at his mistress. When James bought the house we share he never asked my opinion about anything, he even chose the vehicle I drove. I was never a wife. Never loved or wanted – I was more an unwanted obligation.
Before I could shake the memories off, that old fear seeped through my veins; which sometimes happened when I thought about my old life with James. My hands started to shake…. I quickly shoved the boxer briefs into the drawer. Out of habit I quickly looked over my shoulder to make sure he was not lurking in a corner and quickly left the room. I know my life with Edward will be different, much more fulfilling. In the short amount of time we've been back together, he has given me so much of himself emotionally without complaint. And has become one of my biggest cheerleaders as I found my voice. My opinion mattered – I mattered. All week Mike had been sending Edward lists of houses for sale and we'd pour over the information writing down what we each wanted.
I don't need a lot, just a place we can just be together. Like this bungalow, it was the average size of a one bedroom apartment and it was perfect. I didn't need a ten bedroom home – I just needed Edward.
When I entered the house I was on my way upstairs to look for Edward when I saw him sorting dirty clothes while on the phone in the laundry room. This was the first time I'd ever seen him touch his laundry. When we were in Forks, Los Angeles and Seattle there was either a housekeeper, Esme or myself to do this chore. I unabashedly watched as he placed the colored clothing in the washer and then accurately measured the liquid detergent.
Edward did not notice me watching him until he was about to walk out of the laundry room. He cocked his head my way and mouthed 'What?" then grinned at me. I felt the familiar fluttery feeling hit me in the pit of my stomach along with that desire that made my lady bits throb excessively.
"You," I mouthed back and gently pushed him back into the room. I stood on the tips of my toes and kissed his neck. "I want you to fuck me," I whispered in his phone free ear. I took great pleasure in watching him let out a small moan and then bite his lip.
His breathing became labored. "Um, Ben I will have to call you back," he muttered and ended the call before Ben could respond. Edward's lips met mine and it felt as though I hadn't kissed him in days when it had only been less than three hours. I reached into his pants and stroked his hard cock.
Edward lifted me onto the washer and reached under my dress and yanked off my underwear. I heard a rip but was not sure it if was my dress or my underwear... all I could think about was him inside me. "Please Edward," I moaned.
In the most animalistic moment Edward slid his cock inside of me and fucked me hard against the machine. It was as if we were trying to become one. His lips devoured mine. My fingers were in his hair, slightly yanking, making him groan more which made him grab my hips firmly and then fucked me to oblivion. As if we were in sync we came together.
"God baby we keep this up we're going to break something," he muttered as he kissed my neck and slowly pulled out of me.
My legs felt like jelly when my feet hit the ground, if Edward hands weren't gripping my hips I would have melted right there. "We'll replace it. I would hand over my life savings in order to have more moments like that," I responded.
"I wasn't thinking monetary...more like limbs," he said amusingly. Edward's phone beeped alerting of a text message coming through. He muttered a few curses as he read his messages. "Alice said they will be leaving Maui in about thirty minutes."
"I thought they were flying with your parents."
He shook his head. "No, to deflect from the paparazzi; a group either flies in days apart or one takes a boat from Maui."
I silently nodded. This was my new life, strategic planning vacations to avoid prying eyes. The more time I spent with Edward outside of Washington the more I was able to see how hard it is for him to have a normal life. He attended 'Hollywood' type parties not so much because he enjoys them; it was more to maintain connections. His family vacations are key to his normalcy and I wanted to help him create a home so he won't always feel like he's 'on'. "Okay, then I better get changed again and start on breakfast."
Edward suddenly groaned.
"Sorry thinking about you naked again," he said sheepishly.
"Tell me about it, I saw you sorting laundry and I lost it."
He gathered me in his arms. "Hmmm so being domesticated does it for you?"
"Well….can you do more than laundry?"
"I have you know not only can I do laundry but I can do dishes and mop as well."
I suddenly had a full visual of Edward mopping the kitchen in nothing but a pair of tattered jeans and I felt that familiar pull in my belly. "Fucking Christ on a biscuit – my nipples are hard," I admitted.
"Woman, you're killing me!" he moaned and gave me a hard kiss. "I don't think we should shower together or we'll never finish up."
I nodded in agreement and with one last kiss I ran back to the bungalow to shower and change into a light pink cotton maxi dress, adding the turquoise bracelet and choker Edward bought me when we were in Los Angeles. I could not stop the smile when I glanced at my engagement ring again.
Even though his family had accepted me as his girlfriend, I wasn't sure how they would react to our news. After years in a hellish marriage I deserved to be happy; and if they did not want to support me, then I would deal with it.
I was mixing pancake batter when my phone alerted me to a new text message from Rachel.
Rachel: On our way back…..have snacks….they're pretty drunk and I think stoned.
I giggled and snorted when I read her message. When I first moved in with the Cullen's I found out Esme was a closet stoner. She would usually partake after a stressful day with a client or upon completion of a piece of furniture she was building; it was then I learned to have small treats nearby. Thankfully I baked some brownies yesterday and just cut up a half a pan into tiny pieces.
"My parents are here," Edward said fresh from his shower ten minutes later. He donned on a white V-neck tee and khaki board shorts and he was bare foot. Damn even his feet turned me on. I shook my head knowing I had to control these thoughts; because lusting after one's fiancé in front of his parents would just be weird. "And the boat is set to arrive in twenty minutes."
Before I could respond Rachel came through the door with Esme, Carlisle and Aro. "Look who I found," she said with an odd smile on her face.
"My babies!" Esme exclaimed when she saw us.
"I see Mom was on the party plane," Edward said and gathered his mom into a tight hug. "Hey Mom."
Esme cupped Edward's face and stared at him with blurry eyes. "How's my pretty boy?" she asked and tilted her head side to side as if to get a good look at him. "Carlisle, Carlisle! Edward had sex! Look, Look!"
Edward's eyes bugged wide and his face turned beet red. "Yep, he looks way more relaxed and Bella looks like she won the lottery," he slurred in agreement. Honestly, I felt like I won the lottery, Edward is an amazing lover. Our first time was horrible and sex with James was painful and mechanical. "But please tell me you were not having sex in our bed." It took all I had to contain my laughter and I could hear Rachel snicker loudly.
"Could we please not discuss this?" I asked, mortified.
Aro gathered me into a bear hug, similar to something Emmett would do. "Oh Isabella, discussing and embarrassing each other about their sex life is the Cullen way. Welcome to the family," Aro said playfully as his gaze lingered onto my ring. Yep, Aro was definitely drunk, he's only playful after drinking way too much. No matter what, he was always sharp. And right now, he was as sharp as ever.
Carlisle and Esme also gave me big hugs and ventured to look around the house. "Oh my god Rachel – you did this?" Esme inquired as she took in the Christmas décor.
"Yes," she said nervously.
"This is beyond my expectations," Esme murmured as she looked around the living room. Rachel created a Hawaiian Christmas wonderland. If I didn't watch her put everything together I would have thought she hired someone professional to put it together. "It's perfect."
"Thank you, Esme. That means a lot coming from you."
"Are you sure you're not an Interior Designer?" Esme asked impishly.
Rachel laughed. "No! I received lessons on Christmas décor from the best – Renee Swan," she said smiling.
I did a double take and I noticed Aro's eyes zoom in on her. "My mother taught you about decorating?"
Rachel nodded. "Yeah, that was her favorite holiday. The one time Charlie allowed the meticulous tendency to run rampant."
I was trying to digest this bit of information when the side door opened. "Hey Family! Miss me?" Emmett yelled as he walked in.
Esme ran into the arms of her oldest son with a school girl glee; the way she was cooing you would think it was months rather than weeks since she's seen her kids. Alice, Rose and Jasper followed behind and the hugging and hellos started all over again. The quiet Edward and I had all week was definitely gone, but I didn't mind because it meant the family was back together. No matter how much Edward complains he loves being with his family and I will do everything in my power to keep that look on his face.
A rapid bang on our bedroom door woke us up the next morning. "Wake up! Wake up! Let's eat then open presents!" Alice yelled. Edward was smart enough to close and lock the bedroom door because everyone had access to the bungalows, well except the bedrooms.
"Go away!" Edward yelled back but I could see a smile ghosting his face.
"Wake up you sex fiends!" Rose shouted. "If I have to be up – so do you!"
I groaned and snuggled against Edward. "Let's pretend they're not here," I murmured against his side and fell asleep.
A loud bang suddenly woke me again. "Mom wants to open presents before we head to the base," Emmett said loudly. Edward and the band had planned a small show at the local Marine base for the stationed soldiers and families who could not get away for the holiday. Edward said usually he was so exhausted by Christmas he was barely awake for festivities with his family. "I feel like a douche for not doing this before. Yeah I was tired but it was nothing compared to what they have to go through," Edward said, when he began planning the event. When he shared his idea with the family they were more than willing to help out.
"Our presents are labeled under the tree – GO AWAY!" Edward yelled.
"Seriously if you don't come to the main house quick Ace is threatening to cook breakfast! Listen, I love that girl but not enough to endure her cooking!" Jasper pleaded through the door.
"Jazz I thought you liked my eggs!" Ace cried.
"Sorry sugar but I usually have to throw up after I eat your food," he admitted mournfully.
"They're not going to stop and the thought of Ace cooking makes my stomach turn," Edward said as he rubbed his eyes. "We'll be there in fifteen minutes."
With a sigh I reluctantly got out of bed, I heard Edward moan and I turned to see his desired filled eyes take in my naked form. It still amazed me that I was no longer shy when I was alone with Edward. Once in the bathroom I took a quick shower and was in the main house within ten minutes. When I walked in and stifled a giggle at the sight before me. Esme, Carlisle and Aro looked like death warmed over. Aro looked pale and sick and Carlisle was fairing no better as he had his head down tucked into his arm while Esme kept rubbing her stomach as she kept drinking her water.
When I arrived on the island I was completely hung over so I still had some of the 7-Ups and Sprites in the refrigerator. I grabbed a few cans and removed the water. "Water is a natural detox, it'll bring up all the toxins up in your body. Drink the soda and only soda today and you'll need to eat something with some acidity," I stated and gave them each an Extra Strength Tylenol before went into the kitchen to start breakfast.
"I still can't believe they were so fucked up last night," Emmett said as he chopped fruit which reminded me about Emmett's strict diet. He had to lose lots of muscle for this movie role and planned to make him a special omelet packed with protein and vegetables.
Edward laughed as he stared at his parents and uncle. "I think this tops your college graduation party," he said to Emmett as he began to place bacon on the pan.
"Yes, I think you're right," Emmett said with a laugh. "But not as bad when I was drafted; I wonder what brought it on this time."
"Who knows, they're so weird sometimes," Ace said as she snacked on a carrot. "So is anyone going to mention the new ring Bella has been sporting?"
I smiled and groaned simultaneously. Yesterday we were saved from discussing the ring due to the fact everyone proceeded to get drunk and catch up, the drinks were flowing and we just enjoyed knowing we had a secret a while longer. At one point in the evening Carlisle wanted a jam session and Alice went straight to the upright Steinway that was in the living room and the guys brought out their guitars. Aro, Rose, Esme and I watched with glee with an occasional moment when Rose would join in.
"Yes, I've been very curious about this ring but I was trying to be nice and not bombard you with questions. Well nice time is over - spill!" Rose demanded.
I looked at Edward, he only smiled and winked and proceeded to wash his hands. "Um…well it's a gift."
"Some gift," Emmett said without looking up from his task and Jasper just chuckled.
Edward just smiled and he dried his hands. "I asked Bella to marry me and she said yes," he said as tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. The look in his eyes made my heart race with anticipation and wished we were alone again. The spell was broken when we were engulfed in hugs and squeals which I think came from Emmett.
"Why is there so much noise coming from this kitchen?" Carlisle asked solemnly.
"Daddy, Edward asked Bella to marry him and she said YES!"
Carlisle just nodded. "Yeah I already knew that – I saw the ring," he replied softly. "Congrats Bella welcome to the family."
"Edward proposed?" Esme shrieked. I had not seen her standing behind Carlisle during the entire exchange. She came barreling into the kitchen and hugged both Edward and I, her hangover momentarily forgotten.
Carlisle came over and congratulated us. "The moment I don't feel like ass then I will give you a proper Cullen welcoming but right now I'm trying not to hurl," he whispered in my ear.
I could only laugh because this was so not Carlisle, for once he needed to be mended instead of the other way around. "It's okay Carlisle. As long as we have your blessing, I'm okay."
"Oh Bella, you had my blessing the moment I saw his tattoo in that hospital bed," he said earnestly.
Tears sprang into my eyes and I hugged him tightly. Carlisle was the one who saw me at my worst, he was a constant pillar of strength even when I ignored his advice. "Thank you!" I whispered back and discreetly wiped my tears. "Let me get you another Mountain Dew and something to eat – trust me you'll feel better."
"Thank you," he whispered and gave me another squeeze before he turned to congratulate his son. With a joyful heart I turned back to the stove to prepare breakfast, everyone helped to create a lovely Hawaiian Christmas breakfast.
I sat quietly on the couch next to Edward with a constant smile on my face as I watched the Cullens exchange gifts. With the price limit gifts made the holiday normal, very similar to when my parents were alive. Since there was not a lot of money gifts were never extravagant, they were thoughtful and meaningful. My mom once gave me a plastic heart necklace that I loved. A year later when I lost it on a field trip, which happened to be a year after she died, it left me depressed for days. The gifts today were just like those moments, sweet thoughtful gifts.
"The gift to Bella was more than the allotted budget because it's from Carlisle, Aro and myself," Esme said and handed me a small unwrapped jewelry box with just a bow. "Welcome to the family."
My heart raced, I lifted the box and found the Cullen crest attached to an antique white gold bracelet. "Isabella this crest was created by our great-great grandfather to symbolize love, honor and family," Aro said. "We protect our own."
I tried to swallow the lump in my throat; instead ended up clearing my throat several times, and still no words had been spoken by me as of yet. Edward gently squeezed my knee and that's when I noticed the leather cuff he was wearing also had the crest. When I looked across the room everyone, including Jasper and Rose had the crest in the form of a cuff, bracelet or necklace. Aro and Carlisle were the only ones who wore rings.
Carlisle walked over and crouched down in front of me, his blue eyes clear and serious. "This bracelet symbolizes your place in this family, not only as Edward's future bride but simply as Isabella Swan," he said softly. "Not only do you have Jacob but you have us as well. Officially welcome to the family." I understood the meaning behind the simple words, which were strong and fierce. The tears I tried to hold back spilled down my face.
Once again I cleared my throat and tried to find the right words but again I was speechless. Instead I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on for dear life. Moments of the past few years flashed in my mind of Carlisle patching me together, encouraging me to run, and going beyond a doctor/patient relationship and his unwavering love. "Thank you, I wish I had something eloquent to say... but Thank You, Thank You and Thank you for welcoming me into your beautiful family," I whispered in this ear. "But most of all thank you for….everything."
When I untangled my arms from around Carlisle's neck, Edward sat forward with the bracelet in his hands and effortlessly clasped it around my wrist. I hadn't felt a part of a family since my parents were alive. Jake tried to fill that void, but it was a hole too wide; yet he did ease the ache. "FYI, I will never see you as my sister," he said flippantly and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
"Good cause I'm not into incest."
Before he could respond I was gathered in my second group hug of the morning. Edward was still within my sight as Jasper, Rose and Alice came to give me a hug. Emmett with a wide grin grabbed me by the waist, lifted me off the ground and hugged me tight. "Being in this family means you never fight a battle alone and we will always be by your side," he whispered in my ear in a serious tone. "Got it?"
I nodded and he gently put me back on my feet. "I mean it," he said and then winked with his usual dimpled smile. When it comes to Emmett - never let the jovial personality fool you, deep down he was a serious person, he so loved his family above all else.
Esme gathered me into a tight embrace, no words exchanged. When I first moved in with the Cullen's she was often my rock. At the beginning I would simply sit with her as she built furniture and some days she would let me vent. She never judged, just listened. Another pillar of strength when I desperately needed one and I always appreciated her.
When Esme released me I noticed Aro standing off to the side. "Well Isabella we've come a long ways since the first time we met," he said reflectively.
I frowned. "I remember that meeting…..I didn't like you," I said drily. When Aro threaten me in that hospital room, I was tempted to run him over in my wheel chair. Despite his often cold demeanor I've warmed up to him. As Edward reminded me his public persona was completely different from who he really was. He was a fierce warrior in a time of battle and I could not be more grateful he was on my side.
Aro nodded but I could see his lips twitching. "Good - then I did my job," he said and gathered me into a hug. By all accounts Aro was not a hugger but I was pleasantly surprised by this gesture. "Would you like to open my gift?"
I pulled back and flashed my bracelet at him. "Hello this is why we're hugging it out."
He gave me one of his rare smiles. "Yes, but I got you something else."
"Ohhoo, someone is going over the allotted budget," Emmett scolded.
Aro rolled his eyes. "Technically this didn't cost a thing," he said and handed me a letter size envelope. When I removed the contents, my heart stopped for a moment and eagerly looked to the bottom of the page and I felt a resurgence when I saw the signatures at the bottom.
As if he knew I felt Edward grasp my hand. "Ohmigod, is this final?" I wheezed and my gaze went back to the paperwork in my hands. I wasn't sure what I expected to find when I opened this envelope but my divorce decree was not on that list.
"What is it?" Edward asked.
"My divorce papers," I whispered.
Edward grabbed the papers out of my hands and looked them over. "Aro, this really finalized with the court?" he asked shockingly.
Aro arrogantly gave the signature Cullen smirk. "Yes, Judge Grey loathes Jane and eagerly finalized before the holidays. Otherwise you would have had to wait until February," he said gleefully. Glee and Aro don't usually go together but at this moment he looked like a kid in a candy store. But Aro did the one thing he promised me in that hospital room – he took down the Ramsey's.
My mouth dropped open and in my head there was a chant: Freedom! "I'm truly and utterly free."
Edward's eyes widened and before I knew it, he grabbed me and kissed me hard on the lips. I knew my pending divorce bothered him to a degree but even though he asked me to marry him, he really wanted this part of my life to be over. And it finally was.
"I wish I could tell you I had a helping hand in all this, but in reality his new attorney asked if I would come to the prison so he could sign the papers. He did make some amendments to the divorce settlement."
I frowned. "What do you mean? I got my settlement, he doesn't owe me anything."
"And that's what I told him but he said he wanted to be rid of everything, so he signed the house and all the cars over to you as well."
A chill went down my spine as I thought about the house I shared with James, it was the house of pain and I wanted nothing more to do with it. "Can I take a bulldozer to it?"
"You want to tear it down?" Edward asked.
"Yes, if I could with my bare hands but I'll settle on a bulldozer."
Alice came over with a tray of champagne. "I figured Cristal was required for this moment," she said with a grin and held her glass high. "Okay everyone raise your glasses – to my favorite Uncle, thank you for going beyond the call of duty for our friend and newest family member. And to Bella thank you for being brave when fear ruled your life. And because of that bravery my brother is actually happy and acts like a responsible adult; that alone deserves a huge thank you. But...it's your bravery and courage that makes you an amazing person and we love you. To Bella!"
"To Bella!" everyone cheered. Alice's words overwhelmed me so much I could not stop the tears from flowing. Edward gently wiped the tears from my eyes, and held me close; there was nothing like hearing his gentle I love you in my ear.
A/N: So...what do you think? Leave a comment...please! LOL But seriously, thanks for reading!