Ninapolitan's D.I.L.F. Contest

Story Title: Stitches in Time

Author: ericastwilight & lisa89

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Vamp or Human: Human

Word count: 13,942

~ Bella

Could this day get any worse?

This had to be one of the longest shifts of my entire life. At least, that was how it seemed to me. It was my first year as an ER resident, and nothing could have prepared me for the length of these shifts. The longest I'd worked yet was twenty-four hours, but that had gone by in the blink of an eye compared to this.

Already I'd had one child who'd thrown up all over me as I'd tried to examine him with the aid of a tongue depressor, and I've only been given fifteen minutes to shower and change before I had to be back out on the floor.

Now I had my finger stuck in the anus of old Mr. Newton. And what a surprise – there wasn't anything wrong with him, just like there hadn't been any of the other times he'd come in, complaining of mysterious blood in his stool. It was hard not to get frustrated with those kinds of patients, but I had a job to do, and I had to stay professional at all times. It was getting to be a pain in the ass by this point in my shift.

"Okay, Mr. Newton," I said as I washed my hands in the sink, incredibly relieved to have freed my finger from the old man. "Everything looks fine. If you have any more problems, just give us a call."

"Thanks, sweetie."

How a wrinkly old man could wink at his doctor when he was lying on a table with his bottom exposed was beyond my comprehension. I forced a polite smile and left the room as quickly as I could without seeming anxious to get the hell out of there.

"Hey, Swan!" a familiar voice called out, and I turned to see Dr. Riley McCall's smiling face. I made my way over to the nurses' station, where he was casually leaning on the counter, waiting for one of the nurses to get back.

"Hey, Riley, how are you?"

"Fantastic, actually." He beamed excitedly as he pulled a small ring box out of the pocket of his lab coat.

I gasped dramatically as I brought my hands up to my mouth, feigning shock. "Oh my God, Riley! For me? I'm so flattered."

He laughed and placed an arm around my shoulders affectionately. "Can it, Swan." He popped open the box to reveal a modest yet intricate engagement ring.

I let out a quiet gasp for real this time. "That's absolutely gorgeous, Riley. Does Leah have any idea you're planning on proposing?"

"Nope," he said proudly. "So, I'm wondering if you could do me a favor."

"Sure, what's up?"

"Could you try it on for me? I don't want to have to take it to get resized after I propose, and I know you're the same ring size as her."

"Of course," I said, taking the box from his outstretched hand. I plucked the ring from its plush encasement and slid it onto my finger. "This is really beautiful, Riley." I held my hand out in front of me, admiring the way it looked on my hand. I wondered morosely if I'd ever have a ring of my own on my finger.

"How does it fit?"

"Perfectly." I stuck the box in my pocket and laughed at Riley's confused look. "I'm having fun with this. Let me pretend for a minute."

"You're a nutcase."

"You love it."

An annoying familiar, high beeping sound interrupted our banter, and we both automatically looked down at our pagers.

"Shit, shit, shit," Riley muttered under his breath. He immediately broke into a light jog. "Give it to me later!" he shouted, obviously referring to his ring. I was kind of honored that he would trust me with it, but we were close enough that it wasn't surprising.

"Dr. Swan, you've got a patient waiting in room three," came the nasally voice of Jessica, the head nurse. She sounded bitchy and disapproving, as usual, but I hurried over anyway. I couldn't afford to get behind on my patients. The ER was busy enough as it was. "He's pretty hot," she added, "and he's got his daughter in there as well."

Room three was right next to where I'd been standing, and I plucked the chart from the holder beside the door. I skimmed through the file; nothing too out of the ordinary. And then I glanced back up at the patient's name.

Edward Cullen.

My heart rate immediately picked up, and I had to take a deep breath to calm my nerves. It was probably nothing, I told myself. There were probably plenty of Edward Cullens in San Francisco; it was a huge city. It couldn't be the most well-known pediatric surgeon in the area, no way.

This was ridiculous. I was a doctor, and it didn't matter who my patient was, I had to go in and treat them. I shook the remaining nerves off and opened the door.

Shit, it was him. And Jessica had been right; he was just as hot as I remembered him. Dr. Cullen was on the board of supervisors at the other main hospital in San Francisco, White's General Hospital. I'd applied to do my residency there, and I vaguely remembered doing an interview with him and a few of the other board members. I didn't remember too much about it, as it was just over three years ago, but I did remember him being extremely good-looking. My memory had served me well.

I apparently hadn't done such a great job of getting rid of my nerves at the door, because I was jittery as I entered the room, tripping around the examination table as I went to sit in my seat. Dr. Cullen huffed impatiently as I looked through the file, my hands trembling slightly. I didn't dare look up at him to see what the problem was, but I assumed he was annoyed at having had to wait so long to be seen. On the other hand, he was a doctor, he knew how long it took.

"Hello, Dr. Cullen," I said, finally looking up at him when I'd triple-checked his file. It was then that I noticed a little girl of about five or six sitting in the chair next to him. She looked too cheerful for a little girl who'd probably been in the waiting room for a few hours. "And what's your name?" I said to her kindly.

"I'm Abby, and this is Daddy," she said enthusiastically, beaming up at me. "What's your name?"

"I'm Dr. Swan," I answered, "but you can call me Bella."

"Okay, Bella. I was upstairs playing with my Barbies and Daddy was in the other room fixing the house and I wasn't supposed to bother him so I had to stay in my room and then I heard him say a –" her eyes widened scandalously, and her voice dropped her voice to a whisper "– bad word and then I heard a loud noise and even though I was supposed to stay in my room I ran out to see what happened, and Daddy had dropped the couch on his toe!"

I suspected the only reason she had stopped talking was because she's run out of breath. She took in a huge gulp of air and burst into a round of giggles. She was absolutely adorable, and by the look on Dr. Cullen's face, he seemed to think so, too.

The little girl immediately stopped giggling, her face turning serious, almost sad. "But then Daddy told me that he'd hurt himself and that was why he'd dropped the couch and then we had to come here because I couldn't stay home alone and there was no one to take care of me.

I smiled down at her as she finished her story. "It's okay, your daddy's going to be fine." I glanced over at Dr. Cullen and noticed that he too was smiling down affectionately at his daughter. When his eyes met mine, however, his gaze turned stony and he said, "Can you just stitch up my arm now? We've been here long enough already."

God, I'd had no idea that he was such an asshole. I knew that doctor's sometimes got big egos, but this guy was a complete jerk. All of a sudden, I had a memory of my interview, three years before. He'd been just as much of an asshole then, but I hadn't remembered it until now. I could picture his face as clear as day, glaring at me with the same expression he was wearing right now.

What the hell was his problem? He was a doctor, he should have known how to act professional, especially with his daughter right there with him. I tried to shake off my irritation, because I had to take the high road and be professional. I was only a resident, after all, and it wouldn't help any to give Dr. Cullen a bad impression, even if I wasn't in his program.

It made me wonder, though; had I given him a bad impression at my interview? Was it just carrying over? I needed to rectify that, if that was indeed the problem.

"Sorry, Dr. Cullen," I said with forced politeness. "I won't take long." I looked at his injury, a gash in upper arm, below his deltoid muscle. He had closed the wound himself using a butterfly bandage, but it was just deep enough to need a few stitches.

"It's going to need about seven stitches," Dr. Cullen said authoritatively. My jaw clenched in anger. Who did he think he was, coming into my treatment room and ordering me around?

"Yes, I realize that," I said stiffly.

Stay professional, stay professional.

His daughter Abby looked on with interest as I took off the butterfly bandage and began suturing the wound closed. I was surprised that she had the stomach to handle it.

As I was finishing his last suture, Dr. Cullen looked down at his arm, and I saw him frown. "You're not doing it right," he said. "Make sure that you –"

"Excuse me?" I spluttered furiously. "I believe you're the patient, here, and I'm the doctor." I was so tempted to call him "Mr. Cullen," but that might have been going a bit too far.

"Daddy," Abby said with a giggle, "stop being so bossy!"

He should really listen to his child. She's obviously very smart.

"Maybe I would treat you like a doctor if you acted at least somewhat professional in the workplace," Dr. Cullen retorted.

Excuse me?

"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I have no idea what you're talking about." I hated that my voice was trembling.

"You honestly have no idea how bad it looks to be out there flirting with your husband in front of your patients and colleagues?" he snapped.


He looked pointedly at my ring finger, and I gasped in realization. "This isn't mine," I said, wrenching the previously forgotten ring off my finger and back into the box Riley had given me. "It belongs to my friend."

Dr. Cullen's expression turned from outright anger to mild confusion.


He should be sorry. "He asked me to try it on for his girlfriend, who he's proposing to. And frankly, it's not your place to assume anything about it."

He had the decency to look abashed. "You're completely right, it wasn't my place at all."

Abby leaned up and stage-whispered, "You forgot to apologize," in his ear.

Dr. Cullen and I both laughed, and I could feel my anger melting away at his abrupt change in attitude. "I'm sorry, Dr. Swan, for my rude behavior."

"Ask her if she forgives you," Abby whispered again. I hoped that if I ever had kids, they'd be as cute as her.

"Will you forgive me?" Dr. Cullen asked, his eyes wide in an exaggerated plea. Abby looked up at me fearfully, and I couldn't hold back a laugh.

"I guess I'll have to. Abby seems quite set on it, don't you?" I asked, turning to look at the little girl. She grinned at me and nodded, looking a little like a bobble-head doll.

"Good," Dr. Cullen said. "Am I all done here?"

"Yes, unless you're not satisfied with my work?"

"No, it looks great," he said, his kind tone so different from the condescending one he'd used earlier. "Thank you, Dr. Swan."

"Thank you, Dr. Swan," Abby piped in.

I smiled at the both of them as they led the way out of the office. "No problem. Have a good evening, now."

My stomach fluttered when Dr. Cullen turned around to wave at me as he exited the ER, something I hadn't felt in a long time.

Well, that was interesting.

~ Edward

"Daddy," Abby whispered from her car seat. "Are you okay?" Her bottom lip quivered slightly as I drove myself toward the local hospital.

"Of course, pumpkin," I said calmly. "It doesn't even hurt."

I'd somehow managed to get a gash in my arm while attempting to decorate my living room. In doing so, I dropped my couch on my toe. What had already been a stressful day had just turned worse, and I was going to need stitches.

My new fixer-upper was perfect for Abby and me to start our new life, and we'd managed to maybe unpack a quarter of the boxes. We'd been here for weeks, but time was a luxury, and I hadn't managed to find any. With my parents off on their two-month cruise to Alaska, it was just Abby and me.

I loved my little girl with all my heart, and she had me wrapped around her little finger. She was the perfect combination of her mother Heidi and me. She had my eyes and hair and her mother's lips and dimple in her right cheek; my mother insisted that Abby had my smirk.

I pulled into the parking lot but didn't manage to find any spots. I circled around for several minutes before I finally managed to find something. Abby chatted about her day at daycare while I released her from her car seat. She took my pinkie, and we walked into the emergency room.

The first thing I saw was an older man being led by a nurse to a treatment room. He walked with a limp, likely trying to gain the attention of one of the nurses or physicians. I shook my head, because every ER had one of these "revolving door" patients.

I took the paper work from Jessica, the overly friendly married nurse. I rolled my eyes and took my seat with Abby by my side. She chatted happily with an elderly man, who was holding the hand of his wife. She brought a smile to both of their faces as she told them that they reminded her of her great grandma Nanna from Chicago.

We had been already waiting for an hour with a wailing baby that sounded congested and possibly colicky when I saw her.

Isabella Swan.

She was just as beautiful as she'd been when I'd first seen her three years ago. Her hair was much longer, but she was currently putting it in a messy bun, with tendrils framing her lovely face.

When her application had crossed my desk three years ago, she'd sounded like the perfect candidate to begin her residency with us. She'd been at the top of her class and had already been a part-time nurse while she'd worked through college, so she'd known her way around an emergency room. I had set up an interview with a few key members of the board just a few days later.

It had all gone to hell when she'd tripped over the carpeting and landed in the chair across from me.

She'd been a devil in disguise. She'd been everything I wanted in a woman and nothing I could have.

At the time I had been struggling to keep my crumbling marriage together. Heidi and I hadn't had one of those storybook romances. We'd had history and friendship. When we'd both gotten older, we'd both decided to see if it could be more. It had been nice at first; we'd cared deeply for each other, and I could honestly say I'd loved her. I just hadn't been in love with her.

Abby had just been two years old at the time, and Heidi had been so unhappy. I had owed it to my daughter and wife to try and make things work. If Isabella had started to work at the same hospital as me, I'd known that I wouldn't have been able to resist being near her. I'd been angry at her and at the situation. It had just bad timing back then. Since I had turned her away, I'd always wondered what had happened to her.

I knew she hadn't started her residency until almost two years later, and I wondered briefly if I might have been the cause of her late start.

Heidi and I had ended our marriage almost a year after I'd first met Isabella. It had been a mutual decision when we'd both figured out we were better off as friends. Heidi was a wonderful mother, and we had joint custody of Abby. She was currently visiting her family in Italy for a few weeks where she was hoping to catch up with her old boyfriend Aro. I had wished her the best of luck before she'd left, because she deserved to be happy.

Now was my chance to talk to Isabella and make it up to her. I had been a Class A arrogant asshole that day she'd stepped in the office for her interview.

"Hey, Swan!" a voice called out, shaking me from my thoughts. I couldn't see what they were doing, since the nurses' station kept them from view. But some doctor in mint green scrubs wrapped his arm around Isabella. They seemed so close, and my heart fell when I saw the wedding ring on her finger as she admired it.

I was too late.

What the fuck? I'd finally gotten a chance to see her again after all this time, and she was taken.

All hopes were dashed as I was led to room three with Abby chatting away at the flirtatious nurse that I blatantly ignored.

A few minutes later, she tripped in.


As I drove away from the hospital about twenty minutes later, I felt like an asshole. If I had allowed myself to calm down enough, I wouldn't have gone all caveman on her. What impressed me was that she'd remained professional and courteous to my daughter and me.

Thankfully, with Abby's help, Bella accepted my apology.

"Bella has really pretty brown hair," Abby said as she combed the hair of her doll. "Can I grow my hair long, Daddy?"

"We'll see, Abby," I said with a smile.

"Bella has a pretty smile and her cheeks are pink like my dolly..." Abby continued, listing all of Bella's attributes. "Daddy, Bella is pretty, huh?"

"Yes, she is," I answered, turning onto our road.

"Do you think we'll see Bella again?" she asked.

"I hope so."

"I hope so, too."

After a dinner of macaroni and cheese from the box and a bath, I put Abby to sleep. Tonight's reading choice was Beauty and the Beast, but she had made me change Belle's name to Bella. She said that Bella was just as beautiful as a princess.

Once Abby was tucked into bed, I went to hunt down the rogue nail that had landed me in Bella's emergency room.


"Abby!" I called out as I slipped on my jacket. "Come on, we're running late!"

It was already a terrible morning, and I hadn't even gotten to work yet. First, my alarm clock hadn't gone off in time, because the power had been off in all the upstairs bedrooms.

Second, after checking the breaker, Abby's favorite breakfast cereal had been left open on the counter last night and now tasted funny. So Crabby Abby had made an appearance and refused to get ready until I promised her a treat.

"How about we stop at that little coffee shop on the corner for some hot chocolate?" I asked, looking frantically for my keys.

Keys, where were my keys?

"I'm coming, Daddy!" I heard her run across her room and into the hallway before she came bounding down the stairs. "Can I get a cupcake, too?" she asked as she looked up at me. Her eyes widened, her bottom lip pouted and quivered slightly before adding her closing argument. "Please."

Gah, who could resist that?

"One cupcake," I said. Abby smiled at me brightly, handing me a hair brush. I looked at it for a moment and realized I had no idea what to do with it. Damn, I really missed my mother. Three more weeks, I could do this.

"Daddy, can you put my hair up?"

"I can try," I said calmly.

The moment I ran the brush through her hair, she screamed bloody murder. Yeah, I wouldn't even attempt that again. I managed to put it up in a messy bun and hoped I could bribe one of the nice Denali sisters to comb her hair.

The Denali Sisters' Daycare was just down the street from the local coffee shop called Before Twilight. I had only managed to make a stop there twice, both times in the evening after my shift.

Several minutes later, Abby and I were walking hand in hand into the coffee shop, discussing Dr. Seuss. Then she squealed, "Bella!" The excitement in her eyes was evident before she rushed from my side and collided with a slightly dazed-looking Bella.

I smiled up at Bella, who thankfully smiled back. "Sorry," I said smoothly, trying to pry Abby off Bella.

"It's alright, Dr. Cullen," she said. She smiled down at Abby, who gave her a toothy grin back.

"Edward, please," I corrected.

She smiled and nodded before returning her attention back on Abby. "How are you this morning?"

"Terrible," Abby deadpanned. Bella giggled a bit and raised a curious eyebrow in my direction.

"Running late –" I started.

"Enough said," she said calmly.

"Bella, can you brush my hair and make me look pretty like you?" Abby asked, giving her "The Pout."

"Abby, I'm sure Bella is busy," I said thickly.

"I don't mind," she said. "How about we take a seat while your dad buys our drinks?"

Abby nodded happily, tugging on Bella's hand. "It's the least you could do after yesterday," she quipped. "Vanilla Latte, two extra shots." She turned on her heel and followed Abby to a booth.

She was right. I did owe her for how I'd treated her yesterday.

I looked at my watch, realizing that I had very little time left before I had to be at work. I grabbed our drinks and Abby's cupcake and made my way to the booth. By the time I got there Abby was in pig tails, admiring herself in Bella's compact mirror.

"Nice," I said to Bella. "Do you always carry Hello Kitty rubber bands?" I asked before placing her drink in front of her.

Bella chuckled, taking a sip from her coffee. "No, I don't. They were going to be a gift for my niece."

"Sorry," I said quickly. I took out my wallet to pay her back, but she looked mildly insulted. My eyes widened as she glared at me. Once I made the motion to put my wallet back, her features softened.

Damn, she was a feisty one.

I removed the cupcake wrapper off Abby's cupcake while she told Bella about her bedtime story last night.

"And Daddy said you were as pretty as a princess, so instead of Belle we called her Bella," Abby elaborated with a flourish of her tiny hands.

I paled and bit my lip. I looked at Bella, who was currently averting her eyes, blushing. It was quite endearing.

I looked at my watch again and knew if I didn't leave now, I would be late for the board meeting. I tried rushing Abby, but she started to cry that she didn't want to go, because she wanted to stay with Bella.

"Edward," Bella said, wiping Abby's tears. "I can take her for you."

"Bella, you've done enough already," I said, standing up to pull Abby in my arms.

"Daddy!" she wailed.

I sighed and apologized to Bella profusely. "I don't normally do this. My mom is out of town right now," I said quickly, handing Bella my card. "Abby goes just down the street at the Denali Sisters' Daycare. If you have any trouble, call me."

"I'm sure it will be fine, Edward," she assured me. "My niece used to go there. Sister Tanya is so sweet, and so is the rest of the staff."

"She is sweet. Now if she would quit pinching my cheeks –"

Bella laughed. "I think she does that to all the handsome fathers coming in." She covered her mouth as she realized what she'd said. I smirked, earning a slap on my shoulder. "Go, before I change my mind."

"Yes, ma'am," I said. I placed a kiss on Abby's cheek before giving her a bear hug. "Have a good day, baby."

"I will, Daddy," Abby said before taking another drink from her hot chocolate.

"That goes for you, too," I said to Bella. I chastely kissed her pink cheek before dashing away. I looked back over my shoulder and saw her touch where my lips had brushed her skin.

Not a bad morning, after all.

~ Bella

It had been three weeks since, by some fantastic stroke of luck, I'd run into Edward and Abby in the coffee shop. Every morning after that, the two of them had met me for coffee – orange juice for Abby. At first, little Abby had screamed and cried when it was time for her to leave with her father, who eventually gave in to my insistence that I just drop her off before I went to work. We'd settled into a pretty good routine since then, except for the few times I'd had overnight shifts and hadn't been able to take her.

Abby was such a beautiful child, and the resemblance to her ridiculously handsome father was striking. I would be the first to admit that I'd fallen head over heels for her; her constant chatter was endearing, unlike that of most other children. This time last month I hadn't felt lonely, but looking back, now that Edward and Abby had fallen into my life, I realized that I really had been. I was more than a little grateful to have gained two new friends.

Well, I wasn't too sure I could call Edward just a friend. It seemed like there was something there, I just wasn't sure what.

I felt a light tap on my shoulder, and I whipped around, startled from my thoughts. My heart sank when I realized that it wasn't Edward, as I'd hoped, but instead Eric Yorkie, an old classmate from medical school. He was the last person I wanted to see right now.

"Bella Swan! How are you!"

Ugh, his voice cut right through my soul. Just to be polite, I rose from my seat and made to shake his hand. "I'm good. And you?"

He took a hold of my outstretched hand, using it to yank me forward into a tight squeeze. I swore to God, he was enjoying the feel of my breasts pressed against his chest. I pulled away from him, and he took the opportunity to stroke my cheek with his fingers. I recoiled, feeling somewhat violated.

"You're just as beautiful as ever," he said with a cocky grin, as if he thought I'd actually be flattered by his sleazy compliment. I couldn't help but grimace at his pathetic attempts at flirting. I'd shot him down all four years we'd been in med school together; did he really think he'd have a chance now?

I glanced over Yorkie's shoulder, desperate for some kind of escape, and it was like the heavens were shining down upon me as I spotted Abby and her wonderful father enter the shop. Abby's hair was in its usual disheveled state, and an automatic smile lit up my face. Yorkie turned around to see what I was smiling at, and Edward chose that moment to take Abby's hand and walk quickly toward us. Thank God.

"Hi, sweetie." The low, warm quality of Edward's voice was a relief to my pulverized ears. He wrapped his arm possessively around my waist and pulled me to him. I took in his almost – spicy scent, pure masculinity. Edward placed his lips on my cheek, which wasn't anything new, but it didn't go unnoticed that he lingered against my skin for longer than usual. I felt the blood rush to my cheeks, and I wondered fleetingly what his lips would feel like against mine. I could find out so easily, if I just turned my head the tiniest bit...

"Hi, Bella!" Abby thrust her little Dora the Explorer bag at me, completely ignoring Yorkie. "Can you do my hair now?"

I opened the bag to take out a comb and some hair clips. "Of course, honey."

"Bye, Yorkie," Edward said coldly. Right, Edward was his boss; Yorkie, unlike me, had gotten a place in the residents' program at White's General. Ass. Yorkie looked positively terrified of Edward, I noted with no small amount of cheerfulness. He was gone from the shop within seconds.

"I'd normally tell you not to be so rude, especially to your employee, but I'm too grateful to care." I reluctantly stepped away from Edward and sat down to fix poor Abby's hair. Hot as her father was, he was completely useless with anything to do with little girls. He made up for it with the overwhelming amount of love he had for Abby, though; that much was obvious.

"Yorkie's a moron," Edward said matter-of-factly. He sat down next to Abby, watching as I pinned back her soft curl with Hello Kitty barrettes. We sat in a comfortable silence for a moment, and then Edward bent down to whisper in Abby's ear. I couldn't see her face, but she let out a small giggle and waited for me to announce, "All done!" before she turned to face me.

"Daddy wants me to ask you over for dinner tonight, but his cooking his yucky. He can only make grilled cheese sandwiches." Abby let out a great sigh and rolled her eyes. The poor, malnourished child, I thought with a grin. "How about we come to your house instead?"

Edward and I both burst into laughter at the unique, astonishingly logical reasoning that only a child possessed.

"Abby!" Edward admonished through his laughter. "You can't just invite yourself somewhere like that!"

"Oh, leave her alone, Edward," I retorted, pulling Abby into my arms and giving the adorable girl a squeeze. "No child should have to endure that kind of torture. I don't blame her for wanting some good food for once." I shifted Abby so that I could look at her properly.

"Honey, I'd love to have you and your daddy over for dinner. And I can make anything you want, too. What's your favorite?"

Her face brightened, and she immediately answered, "Pasghetti."

I looked over at Edward, and we shared an amused smile. "Pasghetti it is."


The doorbell rang just as I was draining the noodles for Abby's spaghetti. I put the drainer down and hurried to the door, excited to spend more time with the two newest additions to my list of all-time favorite people.

"Hi, Bella." I opened the door to Edward's smiling face. "Here, I brought some wine."

"Daddy said I'm not allowed to have any," Abby piped in with a little pout.

"We'll get you some of my special orange juice, how about that?" I said, putting my hand on her back and ushering her inside. "Come on in, dinner's almost done."

They followed me into the kitchen, Abby racing in ahead of Edward and me. He looked at me and put his arm around my waist. I couldn't help by flush with pleasure at the feeling of being tucking into him, and my traitorous heart skipped a beat as I looked into his light green eyes. "You look beautiful tonight," he said softly.

I didn't think I could handle the intensity in his gaze and what it might mean with Abby right next to us. "Are you saying that I don't look beautiful all the time?" I joked, trying to lighten the mood.

"You always –"

Edward was cut off as Abby ran up to me and tugged on my hand, effectively pulling me away from Edward's grasp. "Where's the orange juice?" she asked excitedly.

"It's in the fridge. I bet if you ask your daddy really nicely, he'll get some for you while I finish your spaghetti."

She immediately dropped my hand and looked over at Edward, her eyes wide and pleading. "Could you get me some of Bella's orange juice, Daddy? Pretty please?"

"Of course, sweets," he replied, being down to scoop her up in his arms. "Who could resist that gorgeous face?" He poured the wine for us as well, and we were soon sitting at the dining room table, three steaming plates of pasta in front of us.

Abby was in the middle of telling us about how she'd stood up to a bully that afternoon when a cell phone rang.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," Edward said, scrambling to get the phone out of his pocket. "I should've turned it off."

"It's okay, don't worry about it."

He looked down at the caller ID, and his expression changed. "It's Heidi, my ex-wife," he said, and my heart immediately dropped into my stomach. Was he still involved with her? "She's away visiting friends in Italy, and she was supposed to call earlier to talk to Abby. Excuse me, I'll just be a second."

Abby's face lit up at the mention of her mother, and we waited – impatiently, on Abby's part – while Edward greeted his ex.

"Hello? Yes, she's right here. One second." Edward turned to me and held the phone away from his ear. "Heidi hasn't spoken to Abby in a few days, is it okay if we set her up somewhere so she can talk while we finish our dinner?"

"Of course, she can go in my bedroom," I answered. "Are you all done eating, Abby?"


"My room is the first door on the left when you go down the hall," I told Edward. Thank God I'd cleaned it before making supper.

"Thanks so much, Bella. I'll be right back."

Edward took Abby out of the kitchen, and I couldn't help but wonder how this Heidi character factored into Edward's lives. And really, how it factored into my life. When Abby's mother was back in town, how often would I get to see her? And would if affect anything between Edward and me? I wasn't sure where things were going with us, if anywhere, as we hadn't talked about it. I wasn't even sure if he felt anything for me. If this ever turned into anything, where would I fit in among his daughter, his ex-wife, and his busy work life?

My pointless inner ramblings were cut off as Edward returned to the table. "I'm really sorry about that," he said. "It's just that Heidi's been away for a few weeks, and I know Abby really misses her."

"Seriously, it's nothing," I replied. "Don't worry about it." I got up my courage as Edward sat down across from me. "Are you and your ex-wife on good terms?"

"Yeah, it's kind of a long story," he said, taking a sip of his wine. "Heidi and I have a really long history. We've been friends since, God, since we were in junior high. We were best friends all the way through grade school and university, and somewhere along the line, we decided to give being something more a try. Sadly enough, it took until we got married for us to realize that we didn't work like that."

"I know exactly what you mean," I jumped in. "I had a relationship like that, but we didn't get quite so far. We were too scared about ruining our friendship for good, and now he's happily married with two kids."

Edward nodded in understanding. "I'm really thankful that Heidi and I have remained good friends, and we see each other from time."

My jaw dropped as I contemplated exactly what he meant by that.

Edward's eyes widened when he realized what was going through my mind. "Oh my God, not like that! Shit, Bella, I –"

"It's okay, I believe you," I said with a laugh, instantly feeling much better. I reached across the table to put my hand on his arm. I couldn't help but admire the feel of his bicep under my fingers. Delicious.

"But I don't regret anything, you know?" he continued. "I mean, look who I got out of it."

As if on cue, Abby ran back into the room, plopping herself down on her seat. "Mommy says to say 'hi," Daddy," she said sweetly. "Bella, is there dessert?"

"Now, do you think I'd let you leave here with no dessert?"

Abby giggled, and I went to grab three bowls for the ice cream.

Eventually, it came time for Edward and Abby to leave. Edward looked at his watch around nine o'clock and reluctantly said that they should probably be going, because it was almost Abby's bedtime. Of course, she immediately burst into tears and clung to my leg as if she were drowning, and I was the life raft.

"Please, Bella, don't make me leave!" she cried pitifully.

I gently pried her fingers away from my thigh. "Honey, I don't want you to leave, but your Daddy's right. You'll be too tired for daycare tomorrow morning if you don't go to bed soon. You don't want to be too tired to run around and play all day, do you?"

She sniffled and wiped her nose on her sleeve. "No," she answered reluctantly.

"Well, there you go. Let Daddy put your coat on, now."

She thankfully cooperated with her father, and they were both ready to go in just a few moments. While I was completely exhausted after an incredibly long day, I was sad to see Edward and Abby go. "Goodnight, you two," I said as I opened the door for them.

Neither of them moved. Instead, Abby looked up at Edward, a mischievous gleam in her eye. "Daddy, shouldn't you give Bella a kiss goodnight? You always give me one."

My breath caught in my throat, but Edward just casually said, "That's a very good point, sweetheart." Smiling softly at me, he placed his hand on my cheek, his thumb stroking my cheekbone. He leaned in close, and before I could process it, his lips were on mine. It was like a fire ignited within me at his touch, and I had to fight very hard not to press him up against the wall and ravage him. My lips parted of their own accord, and Edward bit down gently on my bottom lip. Before it could progress any further, we split apart. After all, there was a little girl right next to us, looking up at the scene with avid interest.

"Um . . . good – good night," I stammered like an idiot.

Edward grinned at me and touched my bottom lip with the pad of his thumb. "Good night, beautiful."

He was almost out the door when he suddenly turned around, his expression one of determination. "Can I take you out to dinner soon?"

Edward was asking me out on a date? God, yes, yes, yes, a million times over, yes. "That sounds nice," was what came out instead.

"I'll call you." And then he was gone, but a muffled, high-pitched squeal combined with soft laughter could be heard through the door.

I leaned against my front door and let out a happy sigh. Things were looking good.


The moment the door closed I squealed like a little school girl, earning a laugh from Abby. "Daddy, you're so silly!"

I swept her up in my arms and kissed her face over and over again, her giggles filling my ears. After settling Abby down once we had gotten home, she said something that somewhat startled me.

"I like your smiley face much more than your frowny face," she said softly. She stifled a yawn with her tiny hand.

"What do you mean, Abby?"

She bit her lip, something I noticed she had picked up from Bella.

"Well, you smile and laugh more when you see Bella."

I nodded, trying to keep a smile on my face. I had no idea my sadness had seeped out enough for Abby to see. I had worked so hard to hide that I was a little unhappy. I had a good career, a beautiful family and daughter, and even though Heidi and I were divorced, we were still good friends. I should be happy – I was happy – but only to an extent. I wanted the whole package.

I worked hard to make sure that despite the fact that Abby was from a broken family, we'd still be a unit – strong, unbreakable and happy. We had both managed to do that together, and we accepted help when we needed it. We had a great family support system. But was I truly happy?

Honestly, no I wasn't, but I was happier now than I had been in a long time.

Was Bella the reason?

After giving my baby girl a kiss goodnight, I managed to crawl into bed. I was emotionally drained. I wanted happiness, and Bella could be someone that could help me find it. She, Abby and me could be happy together.

Bella was so damn beautiful and so good with Abby. My mind played over all the times we'd had so far together over the past few weeks. The light touches and the way Bella blushed whenever I paid her any compliment. The way her hair shone in the scarce sunlight, with red and mahogany highlights. However, my favorite memory of her by far was with my daughter. Abby's hand had fit perfectly into Bella's.

Bella's image came into my thoughts; her delicate frame was something that deserved to be worshiped. The few times I'd had her close, on the couch or when that fucking prick Eric had tried to encroach on my territory, she'd fit perfectly against me.

Shit, she hadn't even agreed to date me at the time, but I'd felt strangely jealous and possessive over her.

I racked my brain to think of other times in my life where I'd become jealous at the level I'd been when I'd seen Eric talking to Bella, and I couldn't remember anything. Not even with Heidi. I had every reason to feel jealous before, as Heidi had always managed to turn heads, but it had never bothered me. She was beautiful – of course other men would notice her.

But for some reason with Bella, I didn't want men gawking openly at her. It really bothered me, not only because I didn't want to share but because I knew it made her uncomfortable to be the center of attention.

The thing was, Bella's presence in a room always demanded attention. Her timeless beauty enraptured anyone that laid their eyes on her, and she wasn't even aware of it.

I lay in bed, groaning when I felt that my erection was standing full mast while my thoughts swirled around Bella. I touched myself tentatively at first, because I knew that was how she would be when she touched me. When, not if, because I had every intention of having her touch me. Hopefully while I was busy exploring every inch of her perfect body.

With the thoughts of Bella's hair draped over her breasts, her nipples pebbled as she rode me, I came harder than I ever had to mundane fantasies of cover models.


I wanted Bella. So much.


"Okay, Daddy, where are you taking Bella?" Abby asked as I poured milk into her bowl of cereal. I had explained to her that Bella and I were going on a date on Friday, and Abby couldn't have been happier.

"I'm not sure," I said, watching her take a heaping spoonful into her tiny mouth. "We both have the whole day to ourselves, so I thought we'd start off in the morning."

"She likes pretty flowers," she said thoughtfully. "She always stops to smell them when we take a walk."

"Hmm, I could take her to the Japanese Tea Garden," I said. "They have lots of those there."

Abby giggled and nodded. "You can pretend to be like all the people with cameras...tour...tourdusts!" she exclaimed.

I laughed and puckered my lips for her to plant one on me. She giggled again and insisted that I needed to buy her something from the wharf before I could have my kiss. She finally relented after I promised her a new t-shirt and jacket. I loved my sweet baby girl's kisses. After packing Abby's little Dora suitcase for her to take to her grandmother's for the weekend, we went to meet Bella at the coffee shop before my shift.


As Bella started to pin up Abby's hair, I told her about our plans for the following day. She was quite impressed with the idea of visiting the gardens, since it had been well over a few years since she'd had the time to visit. Abby happily told her that it was her idea, causing Bella to laugh softly as I playfully growled at my little girl.

Friday couldn't come fast enough.

The following morning, after a cold shower, I was on my way to meet Bella. I hadn't managed more than a few hours sleep the previous evening, as my dreams had been filled with thoughts of Bella in my bed, against the wall, in the shower . . . and fuck, I was hard again. I groaned, trying to calm the hell down before I drew attention to myself. I decided to walk over to the coffee shop since it was a nice day out. I couldn't wait to see her.

My body hummed as I neared the coffee shop, and as I turned the corner, there she was. She was sitting at our regular booth, looking thoughtful as she gazed out the window. Our eyes met, and her face instantly lit up. I couldn't help but smile back at her, and with a small wave I made my way inside.

The moment I laid my eyes on her attire, I couldn't help but laugh my ass off.

She'd taken my idea of a "tourist day" to the extreme. She looked positively adorable in a "I Heart San Francisco" t-shirt, a baseball cap, her camera around her neck and a fucking granny pack around her waist. She scowled at me, crossing her arms in front of her chest.

She tapped her foot angrily before blushing and laughing along with me. "I'm so glad I amuse you."

"Bella, why are you wearing a granny pack?" I asked, still tying to stifle the laughter bubbling up to the surface again.

She shrugged her shoulders. "We're pretending, aren't we?" She bit her lip before passing my coffee to me. "Come on. You're acting like you've never worn one before."

"I have," I quipped. "In the second grade and only on a field trip!"

Bella pouted playfully and took a sip from her coffee. "So, what's on the agenda besides the gardens?"

I smiled and leaned in closer, gravitating toward her. "I thought we'd just wing it."

She raised an eyebrow in question, but her expression was thoughtful. "Alright," she said softly. "I trust you." She snapped a picture of me suddenly, capturing the smile her words had brought to my face.

She trusted me, and I would do everything I could to keep it.

The walk through the gardens was lovely. I watched Bella intently as she captured photos of the beauty around us. I managed to wrestle the camera away from her and took some pictures of what I found beautiful before returning it to her.

"You'll have to give me copies of some of those pictures," I said, placing the camera's strap around her neck. As I pulled her hair out from under the strap, my fingers skimmed her neck, and she shivered.

"Are you cold?" I asked, ready to hand over my hoodie.

Bella shook her head and smiled. "No," she whispered, walking further down the path. My arm brushed against hers as we walked slowly, just enjoying each other's company. I so badly wanted to take her hand in mine, but I was a complete coward. I didn't want to fuck this up. Not only was I risking our friendship, but I was risking my daughter's relationship with her.

Bella pointed at a bird's nest on a low branch of a mulberry tree. She placed her hand on my arm, tugging me along with her. She went up on her tiptoes, trying to get a better camera angle, but huffed in annoyance when she couldn't get it right.

"Can I help?" I asked, walking over to her.

She bit her lip and nodded. "Can you lift me up just a bit?" she asked while a lovely shade of pink colored her cheeks. "I think an overhead view would be better."

"Come on," I said as I placed both of my hands on her hips. "Ready?" I was hyper aware of the close proximity of our bodies. She was beautiful. I suppressed the need to push her up against the tree and take her right then and there.

Don't fuck this up, Cullen.

Bella nodded, focusing the camera toward the nest. "Oh," she said softly when I lifted her up easily. I laughed at her surprise. "I'm not like your average backpack."

"You're right," I said playfully. "You're much heavier than all my medical books put together."

I heard her snap a few pictures before asking me to let her down. She slapped at my arm for making fun of her. "I'm not that heavy."

I leaned down and whispered, "You're as light as a feather. I'd be able to hold you up."

She gasped softly and shook her head, and I realized with an embarrassed jolt of my stomach what I'd said. I tried to apologize, but Bella stopped me with a soft kiss. I melted against her, taking her fully in my arms before I laid another tender kiss on her lips. With a light nip on her bottom lip she moaned and allowed me to softly graze my tongue against hers.

I was completely unable to stop the flow of lust and the flood of emotions that rushed over me when I was with this woman. We moved against each other slowly, savoring each touch.

Bella pulled back just enough to take a breath before looking up at me. I smiled at her and rested my forehead against hers. "Wow," I said, a bit overwhelmed, but in a good way.

She giggled softly, and a smile lit up her entire face. "Wow." The comfortable silence was broken when her stomach suddenly growled.

"Would you like a mountain lion to match that growl?" I teased, laughing when she punched my arm lightly and scrunched up her nose in distaste. We decided to go to the wharf for lunch, where we could also get Abby's gifts. I led Bella to a table, pulling out her seat. She thanked me and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear while looking over the menu. "Mmm...clam chowder."

I laughed, telling her that Abby always said the same thing whenever they came for something to eat at the wharf. "So, Abby's spending the weekend at her grandparents?"

"Yeah. She was looking forward to it, since my parents just got back from a long cruise." The mention of Abby made me realize I'd completely forgotten the card she'd made for Bella. "Here, this is from her." I pulled the small pink and yellow card from my jacket pocket and passed it to her.

"What is this?" Bella asked, turning the card over in her hands.

"Abby had Sister Tanya help make it for you," I answered. "I have no idea what it says."

She smiled and gently opened the card, but she pulled back when I tried to take a peek. As she read whatever Abby had put on there, a few tears ran down her cheeks.

I touched Bella's hand on the table, running my thumb in circles on her palm. "What is it?"

She smiled and handed the card to me. I opened it and saw that my baby girl had drawn a picture with crayons. In a variety of colors was Bella, Abby and me, holding hands. Written over the depiction were the words "I love you, Bella."

I smiled warmly at her as another tear slipped down her rosy cheek. I placed my hand over the damp skin, wiping a tear from her face. "Why are you crying, beautiful?"

She shook her head and wiped away another tear. "I'm happy that she cares for me as much as I care for you . . . for her," she murmured as she stared into my eyes. "I love her."

Right at that moment, I knew I had to have Bella in my life. Not only did my little girl love her, but Bella loved her in return. And that made me love her all the more.

Holy shit.

I love Bella.

I laughed out loud at myself and my realization. This incredible woman had me wrapped around her little finger, very much like Abby did. In a matter of weeks, Bella had crawled into my heart and made a home there, where she belonged.

"What is it, Edward?" she asked, her hand caressing my face. I closed my eyes, allowing myself to get lost in her touch. I love her. I was so damn happy, and I felt complete.

And of course, now I sounded like some Hallmark card, but I couldn't bring myself to care.

After ordering, we talked about our childhoods and discussed the differences in school and life compared to when we'd been younger. It had all seemed so much easier back then. "Are you ready?" I asked, realizing that we'd both finished our lunches. Bella smiled and nodded. We paid our bill and decided to visit some of the shops to find some souvenirs for Abby.

Bella chose a plush teddy bear for her as we picked out a few t-shirts and a new San Francisco jacket. With our purchases in our hands we took a long walk along the harbor. This time, I got up the courage to take hold of her hand.

It was the perfect day, I thought as I watched the sun settle into the bay. Bella's hair whipped around her, and she shivered. I wrapped my arms around her waist from behind and leaned against the railing overlooking the bay. She hummed when I enveloped her in my arms. I rested my chin on her shoulder, laying a kiss on the soft skin of her collarbone.

"Bella, you are so beautiful," I whispered in her ear. She shivered against me, but I knew it wasn't because she was cold. Far from it. I affected her as much as she affected me. "I still remember the first time I saw you. You took my breath away."

She stiffened slightly before relaxing. "Why did you hate me so much that day?"

This time I stiffened, because I knew I would have to confess why I'd turned her away. "I did hate you, but only because you made me want you so badly."

She turned in my arms, looking up at me in confusion. She pushed at my chest and asked me to clarify.

I ran my hand through my hair, and I wished so much that I could erase the look of disappointment etched on her face. "God, Bella," I began, trying to find the words. "I was trying to save my marriage at the time. One look at you and I knew I'd fail in heart beat. I wanted you. If I could've, I would've lured you away from that interview and taken you in my office. But – Christ! – I couldn't do that to my family. You were too much of a temptation."

With every word that slipped through my lips, Bella's face grew more and more horrified. I stopped and waited for the inevitable. I'd never see her again. Oh God, what would this do to Abby?

"So, let me get this straight," Bella started, her voice shaking with barely restrained anger. Her hands were fisted at her sides, and she looked straight at me. "You let your libido mess with my career?"

I cringed. When it was put like that, it did sound like a shitty thing to do.

"I knew I couldn't work with you and –"

"You have no idea what that did to me!" she cried fiercely. "I doubted myself for well over a year, thinking I wasn't good enough to be a doctor."

I paled and tried to pull her back into my arms, but she refused and stepped further away.

"Take me home."

I choked back a strangled apology, because I knew it would fall on deaf ears.

We walked over to the parking structure where we'd parked my car earlier. I tried to open Bella's door for her, but I was met with a vicious glare. The car ride back to her place was excoriating. There were things that needed to be said, but every time I tried, I felt the lump in my throat prevent me from speaking. Bella gazed out the window with a vacant expression on her face as the buildings we passed lit up and came to life.

Periodically, she'd mumble something under her breath but never made to look at me. The second my car came to a stop, Bella bolted before allowing me to open the door for her. I sighed and tried to walk her inside her building, even though I knew it was hopeless. I thought that if I could just get her to talk to me or at least listen to me, I could apologize.

She didn't let me. The moment her door was in sight, she ran through and slammed it in my face. I leaned my head on the door and called out for her. "Bella, please. I'm so sorry."

I sighed after five minutes had passed; I knew she wouldn't open the door. But I needed to stay close to her, so I sat outside her door until the exterior light turned off. An ache in my chest started to expand and grow heavy.

I had no idea what Monday would bring, and it scared the hell out of me. If I was already in this much pain over losing her, then I couldn't imagine what it would do to Abby. I left Bella's doorstep an hour later, wishing I could see her lovely face one more time – if only to give me the moment to memorize the curve of her cheek and the color of her lovely brown eyes.

The rest of the weekend without Bella and Abby was lonely and heartbreaking. I called and texted Bella several times, hoping to entice some kind of response from her. I got nothing. Eventually, it was obvious she had turned her cell phone off, but I kept calling, just to hear her voice on her voice mail message.

When Abby returned Sunday night I hugged her tightly, loving the feel of her tiny kiss on my cheek. "Love you, Daddy."

"Love you, too."

She asked about my date with Bella, and I told her as much as I could. I didn't have the heart to tell her that it didn't end well. I had no idea what I'd find when we arrived at the coffee shop the following morning, but I prayed that she'd be there, not only for Abby but for me, too.

With Abby's hand wrapped around my pinky, we walked to the corner coffee shop. She talked animatedly about her weekend with Nana and Papa, going over her entire stay in great detail. I smiled at her, but with every step I took that brought us closer to the coffee shop, my heartbeat increased.

Will she be there?

Will she talk to me?

The little bell over the shop door rang, announcing our arrival. I stood in line and let my eyes linger on the empty booth that had eventually become "our table" since I'd first seen her here.

She wasn't coming.

Abby tugged on my shirt and looked up at me. "Where's Bella?" she asked, holding up her little Dora case.

God, how was I supposed to tell her?

"Hey, Crabby Abby," I heard a soft voice say behind me. I turned to face Bella and was met with the same vacant look I'd seen the other night. Fuck, I'd done that to her. The pain in my chest increased with every passing second. She broke our gaze, looking back down at Abby, her eyes and facial features warming instantly.

Abby scowled and shook her head. "I'm not crabby today, Bella." She smiled up at Bella before wrapping her arms around her waist. "I missed you this weekend. I had to have Nana read Bella and the Beast to me. But she doesn't do the voices like Daddy."

Bella laughed softly. "I missed you too, squirt," she said playfully, earning some giggles from my daughter. I breathed a sigh a relief. Despite my fuck up, Bella wouldn't abandon her relationship with Abby. I should have realized that earlier. She had never done anything for me to think she would. She loved my daughter as much as Abby loved her, perhaps more.

"Bella," I said softly, testing her mood. She snapped her eyes up to mine, and they instantly turned cold again.

"Don't, Edward." She looked away from me and took Abby to our booth. I told her that Abby would be with her mother for the next week, starting the following morning. She just nodded and hugged Abby closely, seemingly missing her already.

After Bella took a few sips from her coffee she left with with Abby, talking about her weekend. She looked over her shoulder at me, and the look in her eyes shocked me.

It wasn't anger, though I would deserve it. It was longing.

That one look spoke volumes, and it gave me something – hope.

I spent the rest of my morning doing rounds in a haze, praying that I'd see Bella before Abby came back to stay with me again. I didn't think I'd be able to stay away for two weeks. Just a few hours were becoming hard to get through. Especially when we were like this.

One minute after noon, I received a text from Bella.

Picked up my pictures. Almost half are of me. Why?

I smiled to myself, because I could just see her cute confused expression as she looked over all the photographs.

I told you, I wanted to capture the beauty around me.

I waited to see if she'd text back. When she didn't, I continued eating my lunch, and my cell phone jingled mid bite.

We need to talk, tonight.

I smiled and pumped my fist triumphantly in my delight. My colleague gave me a curious look, but I just shook my head, not wanting to talk to him about it.

Dinner? Seven.

She returned it a few short minutes later. I think it would be best if Abby was in bed.

I sighed, because that meant that in all likelihood she was going to end this, with me and Abby.

How about after nine?

Nine it is.

I managed to make it through the rest of my day without dwelling on what could happen tonight. I had to believe that Bella wouldn't do anything to hurt Abby and that despite my mistakes, she'd still remain in Abby's life.

But I really needed her in mine.

After reading Bella and the Beast to Abby, I finally kissed her sleepy form. She yawned softly before wishing me a good night and turned to lay her head down beside the teddy bear Bella had gotten her.

A few minutes after nine, I heard Bella's soft taps on my door. I let out a breath I'd been holding since nine o'clock. I answered the door in a rush to see her again. The moment her eyes met mine, I could see I was forgiven, and I almost couldn't believe my luck. Her gaze was so warm and inviting, luring me in to find out all her secrets.

"I'm so sorry," I whispered before pulling her inside. She had a small packet in her hand, and she handed it to me wordlessly. "What are they?"

"I took a few pictures of Abby and me, and there are some from our date," she said softly.

"Bella," I whispered. I placed the packet of pictures on a side table and took her face in my hands.

"I'm sorry," I said firmly.

"I understand why you did it," she said.

"I know . . . wait, what?"

She sighed and looked thoughtful for a moment, and then she blushed. "I said, 'I understand.'" She placed her hands on my chest, both over my heart. "Even then I knew I wouldn't have been able to stay away from you. It would've been hell working in such close proximity, but not being able to do anything about it."

I let out a deep breath and pulled her closer. "I don't know where we'd be if I had –"

"I don't think we'd be here," she whispered. "If we had acted on our impulses, you might have resented me."

I nodded, because it made sense. If we'd started working together, both attracted to one another, eventually it might've led to me cheating on Heidi. Even though we were never in love with each other, I would never forgive myself if I did something like that to her."

Bella was right, it was a good thing I had turned her away.

"I'm still sorry," I continued. "If I hadn't, you'd be in your last year of residency and not your first."

Bella shook her head. "Edward, it wasn't your fault," she said. "I didn't believe in myself, and that extra year gave me a chance to find myself. If I hadn't gained some confidence, then I wouldn't have been able to get through my first year."

I smiled down at her and pressed my lips against hers. "So we're okay?" She smiled against my lips, nodding.

"No more lies," she whispered before nipping at my lower lip. I groaned and wrapped my arms around her, picking her up slightly to deepen the kiss.

Then we heard giggling – Abby.

Bella and I put a very happy little girl to bed almost twenty minutes later, after she insisted on another reading of Bella and the Beast. She had Bella do the Beast's voice, and I had to do Bella's. It was a wonderful end to what had started out as a horrible morning, filled with laughter and love.

Even though Abby wasn't going to be there to meet up at the coffee shop, Bella was still there waiting there for me. I was late as I usually was after taking a jog in the morning. After giving her apologies and explanations, Bella said she was looking for a jogging partner.

The rest of the week we spent our mornings together, jogging and meeting later for coffee. We texted throughout the day and even met up for dinner when our schedules allowed it. Abby came to have dinner with us the following week while Heidi had a dinner date with Aro. I was happy for Heidi – I could already see the happiness radiating off her. She was in love. When she came to drop off Abby before her date, she met Bella.

"She's a keeper, Edward," she whispered as I walked her out to her car.

"I know she is," I said. I hesitated for a moment. I wanted to ask what Heidi thought about Bella's feelings for me, but I didn't want to overstep my bounds.

"Edward, you deserve to be happy," she said, her pale green eyes meeting mine. "She's the key to finding it."

"I just wish I knew how she felt," I said softly, averting my gaze.

"Trust me, she feels the same way."

My eyes snapped to her eyes again. "How do –"

"You love her," she said.

I sighed and ran my hand through my hair. "Yeah."

"Tell her that."

I nodded and kissed her cheek before saying goodbye.

Bella, Abby and I spent the rest of the evening cozied up on the couch together watching, what else, Beauty and the Beast.

"Daddy, can I pick out the movie you and Bella are going to watch tomorrow?"

"Sure thing," I said, tucking her in after Bella left for the night.

I really wished she hadn't needed to go, but we hadn't moved forward in our physical relationship. I wasn't about to ruin this again by being overeager, and Bella deserved more.

Heidi came the following morning, whispering with Abby in the living room while I scrambled to get ready. Bella was working until the evening, but she said she'd make time for coffee with me. I was supposed to meet her at the coffee shop in a few minutes, and I was already late.

I cursed when I stubbed my toe, causing Abby to giggle. I saw Heidi lay a DVD on coffee table with a note on it. I raised an eyebrow.

"It's our daughter's idea. Not mine," she said. "I will tell you this, though. She is one smart cookie."

I laughed and gave them a hug goodbye, as I ran out the door. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw Bella's breathtaking smile, waiting for me.

No more waiting. I wanted to tell her how I felt.



I took out the Chicken Parmesan from the oven and plated it when my doorbell rang. I opened my door and quickly pulled Bella into my arms. My lips met hers briefly before she whispered, "You cooked?"

I growled at the disbelief in her voice and nipped her lip before kissing her more firmly. She sighed and melted against me as her fingers ran through my hair.

"Come on, let me feed you. Then we can watch the movie Abby picked out."

We had a pleasant dinner of – Hot Pockets.

I hadn't defrosted the chicken enough. I pouted throughout dinner while Bella tried really hard not to laugh her ass off. She failed miserably.

"Mmm, pizza," she cooed, holding a pizza pocket up to my lips. After that, I couldn't stay mad at her.

After cleaning up the dining room and kitchen together, we settled on the couch. I grabbed a throw from the linen closet while Bella retrieved the movie Abby had left us.

"Dad," she read out loud. "Go with this scary movie, because Bella will be scared. And she'll hug you more." She raised an eyebrow. "Abby couldn't have written this."

"I plead the fifth?" I said and then started laughing. "That explains all the whispers between Heidi and Abby."

We decided to watch the movie that Abby had picked out, and Bella quickly ended up by my side. "Its not that bad," I whispered into the darkness. I felt her face peek out from my side, and she shook her head. "Love, I take it you're not a fan of scary movies."

"No," she said throatily. I felt her nose nuzzling my ribs. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her onto my lap. She laid her head on my chest, wrapping her arms around my waist. I laid back on the arm of the couch and put my feet up, bringing Bella on top of me. She gasped softly when my hands skimmed the soft skin under her shirt.

"I'm sorry," I whispered breathlessly.

"Don't be," she said as she looked at me. "Edward, I – I think I'm falling for you."

I smiled at her and touched her cheek. "I'm already there."

Her smile and eyes told me that she was there, too.

"I love you, Bella."

Instead of responding, she crinkled her nose, sniffing. "Is there something burning?"

I scrambled when I saw smoke coming from the kitchen. "Oh shit," I cried out, dropping her on the couch. "The brownies!"

Bella laughed for several minutes after that. I looked at the charred remains of the brownies as she continued to poke fun at me, sitting prettily on my granite counter. "Come here," I growled and kissed her mouth.

She gasped, opening her legs to allow me to get closer. I held the back of her neck and felt the silky texture of her hair as my tongue moved against hers. Her fingers lingered on my shirt before pulling it over my head. She moaned softly and gazed at me, a blush forming on her cheeks. I smiled and kissed the warmed skin.

"Bella, I won't be able to stop."

"Then don't," she whispered, taking her own shirt off. I groaned as I watched her chest rise and fall with every breath she took. She was beautiful.

I took her face in my hands, wanting to make she understood what this meant to me. "I love you, Bella. I want everything you're willing to give me."

"Everything." She pressed her lips against mine and wrapped her legs around my waist. She whimpered softly when she felt my erection against her thigh. I ran my hands down her sides and slid them to her backside. I pulled her hard against me and walked over to my bedroom while her teeth nipped at my neck.

I laid her gently on my bed and stood back. My eyes lingered over her body, memorizing how perfect she looked here, on my bed.

She was mine, and I was hers.

I would do everything I could to make sure it stayed that way. I quickly removed my shoes and socks and leaned over her body. Our legs intertwined as we kissed passionately, showing each other how we felt. Her soft whimpers and sighs urged me to move further. I finally popped the clasp of her bra, after failing three times.

My hands roamed over her curves, feeling and savoring every inch of skin. The soft swells of her breasts fit perfectly in the palms of my hands, her nipples pebbled with just a single touch. I took one in my mouth while Bella's fingers skimmed the hem of my scrubs. I ground my hips against hers, the thin material of our clothes unable to hide our desire. She moaned and arched against me, seeking my lips. I kissed her, caressing her tongue. Her hands pushed down on my pants, and I scrambled to get rid of hers.

In moments, we lay on my bed, panting and covered in a thin layer of sweat. "Bella," I groaned when her hands touched my erection over my boxers.

"Edward, I . . . more," she said with a soft whimper. I kissed her and touched her sex with my fingers, feeling the slick wetness. I groaned with pleasure, wanting more, needing to feel her everywhere, but I kept my touches gentle.

"Fuck, protection," I said, laying my head in the crook of her neck. It had been a while for me, and I had never kept condoms around.

"Pill," she said simply as she ran her fingers through my hair. I looked into her eyes and found the same love and adoration I had for her. I nodded, and we removed the last layer of clothing from our bodies.

"Bella," I said, positioning myself at her entrance. I looked deeply into her eyes. "I want it all." She needed to understand that she was my future.

"Me too," she whispered, touching my cheek and laying a gentle kiss on my lips. I pushed in slowly, every inch of my erection met with delicious warmth. I couldn't mask the guttural sounds escaping my chest. She felt so good, and it had been too long.

Once I was fully enveloped by her body, her legs wrapped my waist, her arms around my shoulders, we began a slow dance. It was sweet, loving and everything it should be. With every thrust of my hips, I was met with a soft whimper or moan. Soon we were at the precipice, covered in sweat, and I loved every second of it. She was so beautiful in her everyday life but this, here and now, she was breathtaking.

Unable to hold off any longer, I touched her center softly, causing her to cry out. I groaned and hurried my thrusts until she trembled beneath me, my name leaving her lips. I laid my head beside her cheek, my mouth against her skin as I released inside her. It was powerful and so perfect.

We caught our breaths, laying side by side for several minutes. She laughed as she played with my sweaty hair, while I played with her pretty pink nipples. Her laughter turned into a soft moan when I flicked one of her small buds.

"Love, I think its time for a shower," I said huskily.

She lifted up the blanket draped over my hips and peeked under, and her eyes widened. "Oh."

I wiggled my eyebrows before jumping out of bed and throwing her over my shoulder. Tender and loving had been just right for our first time together, but now she'd get to know another part of me.

Three Years Later


"Read this one, Bella!" Abby said excitedly, bouncing up and down on her bed. She was clad in a long flannel nightgown, and her pigtails flew around her head with every jump.

"Okay," I relented, grinning at her and pinning her down. "Just calm down. Your Dad's going to flip if he finds out you're not asleep yet." I took the book from her hands and read the title. Chilly Billy. Huh. "And this is the last one," I told her firmly. "Then it's bedtime for real."

"Fine," she said, drawing out the word dramatically as she squirmed beneath me.

I let go of her and tucked her in for the fourth time that evening. The tricky little thing kept escaping from underneath the covers. I sat beside her and began to read. Thank God it wasn't long, because my voice was about to grow hoarse from all the books I'd read to her that evening.

"And if you say 'Goodnight, Billy,' and listen very hard, you might just hear a tiny voice a long way away saying goodnight to you," I finished in a dramatic whisper.

"Bella," Abby said sleepily, "does Billy really live in the fridge?"

"Of course," I said. A little white lie couldn't hurt to foster her imagination. "But he's very hard to see. Because he's so little."

"Of course," she repeated knowledgeably, and I smiled when she was interrupted by a huge yawn.

"That's the sign it's time for bed," I said. "Kiss, please."

I leaned down and Abby placed a sloppy kiss on my lips. I waited until she wasn't looking to wipe off the excess slobber; I didn't want to hurt her feelings, and I did love her little kisses. "Goodnight, sweetie." I made to get up, but Abby tugged on my hand.

"Wait! I didn't get to give Pooh a kiss!" she said, her signature pout on her lips.

"Oh, sorry, honey. I forgot." I pulled my pajama shirt up above my belly button, and Abby leaned forward to give my stomach a kiss. When I'd started to show a few months into my pregnancy, Abby had been in a Winnie the Pooh phase, and had immediately named the unborn baby after her favorite character.

"Okay, now, goodnight," I said with a tone of finality. "I love you."

"Love you, too," she said, her voice quiet with sleep.

As I sneaked out of the room, I heard a muffled curse coming from the baby's room. I hurried over to see what had happened, and Edward was kneeling on the floor next to the baby's crib, which still wasn't put together. He was sucking on his thumb, looking every part the overgrown baby.

"What did you do now?" I asked, trying desperately to hold in the laughter that was threatening to bubble out of me.

Edward popped his thumb out of his mouth and held it out for me to inspect. "I pinched it in between two of the crib pieces, and now it's bleeding."

"Barely, you big baby."

He pouted at me, the same magical pout Abby used to get her way. "Kiss it better?"

"Or, even better," I said, "I can take you into the bathroom and put a big boy Band-aid on it. Will that make you feel better?"

Edward sighed and allowed me to take him into the bathroom, where he helped me up onto the counter so that I could fix him up. I grabbed the bottle of antiseptic, and he yelped when I dabbed some on his cut. "You're the worst doctor ever," he whined jokingly.

"No, you're the worst patient ever," I retorted with a grin. "Now, hold still. Do you want a Dora Band-aid or Curious George?"

"Curious George, obviously. It's much manlier."

I peeled off the wrapping and carefully placed it on his finger. I gave it a quick peck and looked up at him. "There. You're all better."

"Thanks, baby," he said with a smile. His injured hand wandered down to my stomach, and he rubbed it lightly. "I can't wait to bring this sweet little Pooh into the world."

I burst into laughter at his statement, and when he realized how that had sounded, he threw his back and roared with laughter. "You know what I meant. Abby really should have picked a better name."

"I won't disagree with you there."

Our easy, light mood disappeared when Edward pushed up my shirt enough to drag his lips across my stomach. I shivered lightly, enjoying the feel of my sensitive muscles fluttering under his touch. He pushed my shirt up further, and I gasped softly as his hands wandered. He looked up at me and grinned mischievously.

"How about I be the doctor this time?"

Le Fin

AN: I wrote Edward's POV while the talented lisa89 wrote Bella's. Please review.