The Charade – Chapter 2 – SUNDAY MORNING


Author's Note: Here is Chapter 2, which was supposed to be a one-shot. I hope you find I did Charlie and the Cullens justice. Please let me know after you've read it. :o)

Again, a huge thank you to my betas: WendyAnn for her praise and encouragement and BlondieakaRobin for finding those spots that needed just a bit more polish. You ladies are awesome. Check out their stories: WendyAnn's "Broken" and BlondieakaRobin's "Dark Side of the Moon" both excellent reading. :o)



Edward's POV

In the morning, the sun rose, slowly bathing our room in golden light. Bella still lay curled around me. Her arm was around my waist and her dark, silken hair fanned over my arm and shoulder. She'd tucked her face into my neck and her warm breath washed over my face and chest eliciting waves of intoxicating pleasure.

The heat had built up under our blankets overnight, until I was steeped in her body's gentle heat. My own natural chill had been overpowered by her innate warmth. It seemed a perfect allegory for our relationship – her gentle, human nature had, against all odds, overpowered the vampire in me until all that remained, all that I desired to acknowledge, was the humanity she had somehow found in me. She made me more human than I could ever have believed possible.

I lay next to her, lost in my thoughts, for another hour, gently running my fingers through her hair.

It was about 7:30 when I heard the first murmurs of thought coming down the driveway. I was instantly alert. Focusing both my mind and my hearing, I could hear a car approaching, though the thoughts themselves were foggy and out of focus. That in itself indicated one person in particular was arriving – Bella's father.

His thoughts came in fits and spurts, breaking up like a poorly tuned radio station. This is stupid . . . What am I doing? . . . too early in the morning. . . I'm gonna kill Harris for. . . Still, what if he's right? She's my baby . . . her father . . . sonofabitch is sleeping with her . . . what? Shoot . . . In front of his family? Esme? . . . Shit . . . what the hell am I doing? . . . hurts her again, I'll . . .

I sighed deeply. Chief Swan was more right than he knew. Bella was in danger – not just of losing her virtue, but of losing her life. I pushed my guilt aside; there would be time to deal with it later. Now I needed to protect Bella and my family.

I slipped stealthily out of Bella's embrace and moved to the hallway so as not to wake her when I spoke.

"Chief Swan is coming down the driveway," I warned my family, my voice barely above a human whisper.

Carlisle's equally quiet and concerned voice came from his bedroom. "Is there a problem, Edward?" He spoke out loud for the benefit of the rest of the family.

I sighed and ran my hand through my hair in a gesture of guilt and frustration. "It seems Officer Harris has questioned Charlie's judgment in letting Bella spend the night here. He's insisted to Charlie that Bella sleeps with me, not Alice. Chief Swan's dropping in for a visit to put his fears to rest. So unfortunately we're all going to have to go through the charade this morning."

I could hear groans, both verbal and mental, from my siblings' bedrooms, as the brakes on Charlie's Crown Victoria squealed a mile from the house. Rosalie was especially resentful of the intrusion and cursed fluently and loudly.

Emmett's loud guffaw interrupted everyone's thoughts. Through Rosalie's eyes I could see him crawl back up from under their bedsheets and throw back the blanket to expose his head – thankfully neither of them were focusing on what he'd been doing under there. My sister paused, mid-curse, to admire the way the blankets had mussed Emmett's dark curls.

"Apparently Chief Swan has no idea who he's dealing with. As if our Resident Virgin would lay a finger on his daughter, much less do anything more interesting to her!" Emmett joked loudly, in part to distract his wife from her anger, partly to deflect Esme's predictable scolding for Rose's language but mostly just to antagonize me.

Only Esme and Carlisle remained patient and understanding, knowing Charlie was only doing his best to protect his daughter.

I ignored my obnoxious brother and addressed the other one, "Jasper, I'm sorry but I'm going to have to move Bella into Alice's bed."

Typically, Emmett was quick to capitalize on the humour in the situation. "What?! Jasper, are you in Alice's bed? Then where the hell is Bella?" he cried out in shocked outrage. "Carlisle, you're doing a piss poor job of protecting these girls' innocence!"

Rosalie muffled her giggles, her thoughts echoing her amusement at her husband's ridiculous commentary.

"Emmett, not now," Carlisle scolded, rising from his own bed and from Esme's embrace.

Emmett continued to mock me silently, undeterred by Carlisle's reprimand. Now don't get me wrong, Eddie, I don't mind running block for you, but you've got to at least try to score. Even his mental laughter was annoying. I mean you're in possession of the ball, you just need to make a run to the goal . . .

If I know that boy at all . . . "Emmett, I said, not now!" My father barked, correctly guessing that my brother had just switched to silent taunts.

I laughed at how well Carlisle knew us.

One question remained though – why hadn't Alice seen this coming?

When I turned my attention to my other siblings, the reason became clear. From Jasper's seething thoughts, I'd say the timing of Charlie's visit couldn't have been much worse. What had begun as quiet foreplay on the porch, hours earlier, was approaching its crescendo. Alice had obviously been thoroughly distracted by Jasper, her mind consumed by the present with no thought to the future. Growling in frustration, Jasper pushed himself away from her, rolling onto his back. They both lay still for a moment, slowing their breathing, then rose from their bed.

"Sorry, Jasper, Alice," I muttered.

"Don't worry about it, Edward," Alice was quick to forgive. "It's not your fault. Or Bella's. Though, I might have to do something with that Harris, the little. . . " She left the rest of her thoughts unspoken. Already she was forming plans to visit some misfortune on the meddlesome officer who had upset her careful plans for Bella's sleepover. I shrugged, deciding I'd help her when she decided what to do to him.

The sounds of drawers scraping open and hangers dragging along closet rods could be heard as Esme, Carlisle, Jasper and Alice changed into the clothing that was appropriate for the part they'd chosen to play. Carlisle and Esme were opting to greet Charlie fully dressed for the day, while Alice and Jasper quickly rummaged through drawers to find pajamas.

Not surprisingly, Emmett and Rose had yet to make any effort to get out of bed. Though he lacked my ability to read minds or Jasper's empathy, Emmett never had any difficulty in deciphering my sister's feelings or thoughts. Right now, she was sulking, I hate this shit. Why does it always have to be about her? Again?! My brother understood her needs and was giving her the time and attention she wanted. They were both choosing to let the rest of us make any necessary preliminary preparations. Emmett was holding Rosalie against his chest and was softly stroking her hair.

Is Bella awake? Alice asked silently.


"Good. Keep it that way," she affirmed. "She's a terrible actress."

I chuckled, knowing intimately how true that was.

"Jasper, go make sure Bella doesn't wake up," Alice ordered him. "Edward, get Bella." For a tiny woman, she sounded a lot like a Marine Corps commander.

I stepped back into my room where Bella still slept. Carefully I pulled the comforter around her to make sure a cold draft wouldn't inadvertently wake her when I picked her up. Additionally, moving the already warmed bedding with Bella would insulate her against Alice's icy sheets. I paused as a thought struck me. Assuming that Esme let Charlie look in Alice's room, would Chief Swan notice that my gold comforter didn't fit with Alice's pink decor? Perhaps I should use Alice's pink quilt for Bella after all.

"It'll be okay. He won't notice," Alice chirped, proving that she was back on her game, as she sifted through ever-changing visions of the future. Even my brief debate had caused several different possibilities to flash through her mind.

Jasper stepped into my room, wearing a white t-shirt and gray striped pajama bottoms. He paused for a moment in the doorway, adjusting to the smell of our room. After nearly eight hours in the small space, the scent of Bella's blood had infused itself into the very walls, let alone the air of my room. My God, how does Edward stand it, night after night? Two breaths and my mouth is watering already . . .

I froze in my preparations. "Jasper?"

I'm fine. I just need a second. He stopped breathing, and focused determinedly on his control. I'm fine, he stated more firmly.

Moving with more confidence, he stepped to the bedside and slipped his hand under the edge of the comforter to gently touch Bella's ankle. Inducing deep sleep was easier for him if he could touch her. He'd discovered this in the hotel in Phoenix. And today, we wanted to be sure that Bella stayed asleep until after Charlie had a chance to see her in Alice's bed. God knows, we only wanted to go through this charade once and it would be better to thoroughly satisfy any of Charlie's worries by letting him actually see Bella and Alice for himself.

Bella flinched slightly at Jasper's cold touch, then mumbled "Edward" as a small smile played at her lips. Hearing my name again from her lips brought an answering grin to mine. She was dreaming of me. Even in sleep she . . .

Give me a break, Edward, Jasper grumbled, not entirely without an edge of humour. If I had to give up Alice, the least you could do is focus! Your future daddy-in-law's going to shoot you, if he catches Bella here. And while that would be hilarious to watch, Alice'd be pretty pissed at the wedding being cancelled. It's hard to hold a ceremony when the groom's been 'murdered' by the father of the bride.

I snorted at his mental picture of Charlie firing his shotgun at me.

Through his mind, I could feel him push Bella into a deep relaxed slumber. It was a comforting feeling for him as well, as if for that fleeting moment he shared in the peace that sleep offered.

My 'future daddy-in-law' had reached the second bend in the driveway. His tires creaked as they handled the second bend of the gravel driveway.

Brushing past my brother, I scooped Bella into my arms and carried her quickly down the stairs to Alice's room. Jasper followed after us, eager to escape the smells in my room and to resume breathing normally. Even the fresh fragrance that drifted in our wake was less potent than the heady scent of my room.

We passed Esme and Carlisle in the hallway. They were going to the kitchen, where they'd allow Charlie to interrupt them as they finished their 'breakfast' before Carlisle's hospital shift. Esme was remembering how to make coffee and hoping there was time for it to brew before Charlie came into the kitchen.

Alice stood waiting outside her bedroom door dressed in pink silk pajamas. Unlike the rest of my siblings, she was excited, rather than annoyed, by the charade and she was giddily eager to play her part.

I rolled my eyes at her. My sister could find excitement in the strangest things. She giggled at my expression.

Jasper paused to kiss Alice lightly on the lips. The wave of lust he sent her clearly communicated the thoughts I could unfortunately hear. As soon as this is over, I'll finish what I started.

Doing my best to block out the visual images his promise evoked in both their minds, I stepped around them into their room. Alice had already striped her own comforter from the bed and stashed it in the closet. I laid Bella down carefully and straightened the bedspread around her. She stretched her legs slightly but otherwise gave no reaction to the cold bottom sheet or to being moved. I tenderly kissed her forehead, unable to hold back my disappointment that the dreamless sleep Jasper was maintaining kept her from the normal reactions my touch usually provoked – a sigh, a blush, a flutter in her pulse – even in sleep she always reacted to me.

Alice slipped under the blanket beside her, as Jasper strode towards his study.

"Nightie night," she quipped in a hushed voice.

I snorted and turned to race back up the stairs to my room.

Charlie's parking brake clicked into place in front of the house. He was working through the last of his internal debate about the wisdom of knocking on the door. His trust for Esme and Carlisle warred with his doubts about me and about teenaged boys in general.

"Edward, Alice, how long?" Carlisle asked.

Alice looked forward and whispered, "Forty-seven seconds till he knocks."

"Understood. This is the plan. Esme and I will greet Charlie downstairs first. Edward, Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie stay out of sight until Charlie's had a chance to look in on Bella and Alice. After that, come down and join us at your leisure. Jasper, if you can handle it, I would like you close enough to help manage Chief Swan's trust issues and to reassure him that all is well. Edward, we could use you here also."

Charlie wasn't the first unexpected visitor, in fact having uninvited guests in our home was common enough. It usually happened at least once or twice in each location we settled in. Sometimes our visitors had grown slightly suspicious or curious, while others were simply overly friendly. We were accustomed to playing human on short notice. In fact, Chief Swan had come to our home unannounced once before, shortly after we moved to Forks. Worried about possible trouble from all of us 'adopted' teenagers, he'd left happily eating out of Esme's hand. It must have taken some persistence on Officer Harris' part to undermine Charlie's trust in her. Or, I realized sadly, it had taken me hurting Bella so badly once before.

Emmett's chuckle broke into my musing. I groaned at his thoughts. Of course, he voiced them. Emmett always voiced them. "Well then, it sounds like Rosie and I won't be needed for a while. We trust you to take care of this. If the Chief asks, tell him I'm a late sleeper. You know me, I'm hardly ever up this early." Then he stage whispered loudly to Rosalie, "Be very, very quiet." She giggled as he rolled over onto her and . . . ugh, God help me, there were times I really hated being a mind-reader!

Cringing away from their lewd thoughts and equally pornographic actions, I turned my focus back to Bella's father and found him standing on the porch. He knocked softly.

Carlisle moved to answer the door, while Esme finished setting the breakfast table.

I settled into both Carlisle's and Charlie's thoughts to follow the action downstairs. Carlisle's mind was familiar and as easy to read as my own. Charlie's was much harder to hear, but it was far more essential to follow his thoughts.

Carlisle opened the front door. "Charlie! You're up early. Is anything wrong?" His voice held the perfect balance of surprise and concern.

"No, not at all, Carlisle. I was just finishing my shift and thought I'd see if Bella needed a ride home. I hope I'm not dropping by too early." There. That sounds plausible . . . much better than "I'm just making sure your kid's not screwing my daughter."

Carlisle stepped back from the doorway and motioned his guest in. "Of course, it's not too early. You're always welcome here, Charlie. Come in. Esme, look who it is."

Esme had smoothly switched from setting the table to clearing it, putting the plates into the dishwasher, when she knew Charlie could see her. Looking up, she flashed him a wide, welcoming smile as he stepped inside. "Charlie!" she exclaimed with sincere delight.

He smiled with genuine pleasure at my mother. "'Morning, Esme. I hope I'm not waking you. I just thought since I was driving home, you might be ready to get rid of Bella."

"Never," she scoffed. "Bella's delightful. I'd be happy to keep her forever."

"Not funny, Esme," I scowled, knowing she'd hear me from my position upstairs.

Ignoring my comment, she stepped closer to our guest and continued, "I think the girls are still sleeping. At least they were when Carlisle and I came downstairs half an hour ago and I haven't heard them get up. Can I get you some breakfast, Charlie? Or maybe you'd like to look in on Bella first?" She smiled gently at him when he looked slightly uncomfortable, worried that she might have guessed the real reason for his visit. "I know I always worry about my kids when they aren't home. As old as they get, they're always our babies, aren't they, Charlie? Come on. Let's go find your little girl." She smiled at him kindly and guided him from the kitchen.

And this was the magic that Esme had. Her absolute kindness radiated from her, and Charlie – like anyone else lucky enough to be included in the aura of Esme's love – was instantly and completely under her spell. He never stood a chance against her.

Already berating himself for ever having doubted her, he followed her up the stairs, already berating himself for ever having doubted her. He would have backed down from needing to see Bella, if he could think of a way to do that without offending Esme.

Esme led Charlie to Alice's door and they peeked in. Through Esme's eyes, I could see my Bella sleeping peacefully next to Alice. Both girls looked, for all the world, sound asleep.

I knew I shouldn't have listened to that idiot Harris . . . stupid moron . . . there's my girl . . . in Alice's . . . no sign of Edward . . . should have known Esme and Carlisle wouldn't . . .

Esme shut the door behind her and turned to lead Bella's father back down to the kitchen.

"Nicely done, Esme," I complimented her quietly. "He's already thinking about assigning Harris to writing parking tickets for the next few weeks."

Jasper laughed softly from his study. "Perfect. That little dillweed deserves it."

"Can I get you something to eat, Charlie?" Esme offered graciously as they walked back to the kitchen.

"No, thank you, Esme. I just met Harris, er, Officer Harris at the diner for breakfast. We were changing shifts. But that coffee sure smells good."

Carlisle rose from his chair at the kitchen table, intentionally scraping it loudly against the tiles in a very human way. He poured Chief Swan a mug of coffee and 'refilled' his own. "Esme dearest, would you care for another cup?"

She declined, explaining to Charlie that too much caffeine made it hard for her to sleep. They settled back to the table to chit chat about local news, while Charlie drank his coffee and Carlisle pretended to.

I decided it was time for me to join my parents downstairs. I was already dressed in t-shirt and pajama bottoms from my night with Bella, so there was no need to change clothes. But I ran my hands through my hair to make it look like I had tossed and turned in the night as most humans do.

I left my room, letting my feet fall loudly on the stairs. I was hoping the Chief would hear me come down from the third floor – one whole story away from his daughter.

He did. But hearing me raised new questions in Charlie's mind. He's . . . third floor . . . my baby's . . . Alice. . . can I ask them . . . little bastard's room is? . . .that little prick . . . my girl . . in the night. . . .. where Carlisle and Esme sleep?

Realizing he'd rather not so blatantly reveal the purpose of his visit by voicing his questions about the rest of the family's sleeping arrangements, he decided to try to casually draw that information out of Bella later, when they were back at his house.

Perhaps I should warn Bella. But then she was such a terrible liar it might be worse if she were delivering a speech she'd prepared in advance. I pushed that question to the back of my mind, for now. I'd consult with Alice before making any decisions about what to tell Bella.

Almost as if she were aware I was thinking of her, Bella rolled over and sighed my name. With difficulty, I wiped the smile from my face as I rounded the corner into the kitchen,

Moving to Esme's side, I gave her a quick hug and kiss on the top of her head. "Morning, Mom," I mumbled loud enough for Charlie to hear and nodded to Carlisle. "Good morning, Charlie. You're up early," I greeted him, deliberately echoing my father's words to subtly challenge Charlie for this early morning visit.

I moved to the refrigerator, deliberately shuffling my feet as if I were still slightly sleepy. I pulled out the carton of orange juice and poured myself a glass.

"Yeah, I was just, uh, in the neighbourhood and thought I would save you and Alice the trouble of driving Bella home."

"It's never a bother to drive Bella anywhere," I countered truthfully. Turning to Esme, I asked, "Is she up yet?" As if I didn't know.

"No, she and Alice were sleeping soundly, a few minutes ago," Esme answered casually over her shoulder.

"Do the kids usually sleep in late?" Charlie asked in a conversational tone. He was thinking that Bella was a relatively early riser and wondered if the Cullen kids were more stereotypical teenagers. I choked back a laugh – no one was further from stereotypical teenagers than we were.

Esme didn't miss a beat before answering, "Oh, not really. Just Emmett – he's a late sleeper. He's hardly ever up this early."

Emmett barked a laugh from upstairs. Even Rosalie giggled at Esme echoing Emmett's earlier comments.

Alice took this as her cue to get up. She woke Bella gently, but still had to hold her hand over Bella's mouth to silence her surprised reaction, having woken up next to my sister, rather than me. Alice quickly explained that her father had dropped in unexpectedly. Bella's eyes instantly filled with guilt and her cheeks flushed a deep red with embarrassment. I didn't need to read her mind to know that she felt terrible for causing us any 'trouble'.

Alice forestalled the inevitable apology by stating, "Don't you dare say you're sorry, Bella. These unexpected visits happen quite a bit. You'd better get used to it if you're going to be a Cullen, so just look at today as practice. No one's upset; we're used to playing our parts. Heck, Rose and Emmett didn't even get out of bed!"

I focused on Bella's reaction, through Alice's thoughts. Gradually embarrassment faded from her face, to be replaced with anger, as she processed the true reason for her father's early morning visit. My sister was working hard to hold back her laughter at the sight of Bella's righteous anger.

Then Bella snarled the words "I'll kill him" to the complete amusement of both my parents and my siblings.

Jasper chuckled loudly. "Now there's something you don't hear every day. A man walks into the house of seven vampires and it's the human who wants to kill him." He paused for a moment to consider that. "I say let her have him." He was still a bit annoyed at the poor timing of the Chief's interruption this morning.

This time Alice didn't hold back her giggles. Misunderstanding the reason for Alice's amusement, Bella scowled at my sister as if she thought she could intimidate her into silence.

Instead Alice threw a pillow at Bella. "Save the glare for someone who scares easily," she laughed. "Time to get up. Do you want me to pick out something nice for you to wear?" she asked just to tease Bella. "I have a gorgeous Burberry dress that would look gr . . ."

She was cut off by Bella flinging the pillow back at her. "Thank you. No!" And Bella threw back the blankets and stomped to her feet.

She was still clearly infuriated with her father, and the look she wore – her jaw clenched and her eyes blazing – would have served as a warning to anyone less durable than Alice not to irritate her further. Of course in Alice's case it made her giggle again with delight. Oh Edward, she's positively ferocious. You'd better stay in line, or she might unleash her fury on you!

I pressed my own lips tightly together as well to hold in my own laughter at my ferocious kitten.

Turning my attention back to playing my own role, I focused again on the conversation at the kitchen table. Charlie and my father were discussing what to do about old Mrs. Rue who liked to antagonize tourists by deliberately driving like the old lady in Ferris Bueller's Day Off, trapping them behind her as she swerved wildly through Forks' quiet streets. Esme was laughing, her eyes dancing with wicked amusement.

I leaned back against the counter and tipped my glass to my lips, keeping my mouth firmly closed. I didn't drink, but I didn't need to. The charade would fool any human – it always had. Dear God, orange juice smelled horrible. I stopped breathing to avoid the stench of the juice just under my nose. Pulling the offending glass back down, I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand. I realized it was rude, but in this age, poor manners were the norm and sometimes required to make us look 'normal'.

I only half followed my parents' and Charlie's conversation, distracted as I was by following Bella's motions upstairs. I listened to her as she got up and started her morning routine. She ran quietly upstairs to my bathroom. Damn, I'd forgotten to bring down her toiletries earlier. Her father didn't hear her on the stairs though.

She quickly brushed her teeth, washed her face and ran a hairbrush through her hair. Then she skipped back down to Alice's room. Skipped? Her mood must have improved dramatically. Alice's thoughts confirmed this when she saw Bella dance back into her room.

"You go ahead, they're downstairs. I'll be there soon," Alice told her cheerfully.

"Is Edward downstairs too?" Bella asked hopefully.


I couldn't hide my smile. Bella's cheerfulness was for me, because she was anxious to see me.

And then she was there, standing in the doorway. My own miracle.

I couldn't take my eyes off of her. And it seemed she couldn't tear her gaze from mine, either. The time since I had left her arms felt like a minor eternity, though I knew it was only fifteen minutes. It seemed she felt the same way. She came to stand in front of me, and laid her warm hand on my arm. Neither of us spoke.

Someone cleared his throat noisily.

Bella narrowed her eyes in anger, and turned to her father. "Charlie. What are you doing here?" Her tone was flat and angry.

Her father looked abashed and dropped his gaze to his hands. "Morning, Bells. I dropped by to see if you needed a lift home. Thought I'd save Alice and Edward the trip."

"At 7:45 in the morning?" she countered skeptically.

He tried again. "I just wanted to see you, Bells. I haven't seen you in days, with being on this night shift and I miss you."

"Oh, there'll be plenty of time to talk later, Dad. At home." The tone of her voice promised she'd have plenty to say to him later.

Carlisle chuckled quietly in a deliberate effort to lighten the mood. I fought back my own laugh, remembering Alice's earlier advice to me.

"Well, I think it's nice that your dad came to visit us," Esme interjected diplomatically. "You should appreciate having a father who loves you and cares for you, Bella." Although her tone was not reproving, Bella looked contrite. She understood the meaning behind Esme's words – you might not have your father much longer, appreciate him now.

I tried to aid Carlisle's efforts to lighten the mood. "Besides, Bella, somebody's got to figure out how to keep Mrs. Rue off the streets of Forks . . . at least during peak hiking season."

Bella snorted and the tension broke. My words had drawn Charlie's attention back to me. He instantly slipped into his usual state of irritation with me and with the incomprehensible attraction that his daughter felt for me. He was cursing me and hormonal teenagers in general.

Taking advantage of my momentary distraction, Bella neatly swiped the glass of orange juice from my hand and danced away, smirking, to the far side of the kitchen island.

Charlie chuckled at my 'slow' reaction and at Bella getting the better of me. As if I would ever deny her anything she wanted. She already had it all – everything I had, everything I was, belonged to her.

Laughing a little, she took a gulp of the orange juice . . . just before grimacing and shuddering from head to toe. My face fell. Was something wrong with the juice? Is that why it smelled so bad? Had it turned sour? I didn't even know if juice could turn sour.

I glanced at Esme and saw a flash of the same confused distress cross her face as well. Carlisle was equally confused.

I tried to cover our surprised reaction before the Chief noticed it. "Is there something wrong with the orange juice, Bella? It tasted fine to me."

Esme rose and picked up the orange juice carton from the counter to read it.

Bella covered her mouth with her hand and laughed sheepishly. "No, I just brushed my teeth, that's all," she said as if that explained everything. I was still lost. So were Esme and Carlisle. None of us had the slightest clue what Bella meant. I struggled to find the appropriate response.

Then Charlie snorted and shook his head at his daughter. "Bella," he mumbled reproachfully. Through the cloud that covered his thoughts, I could see something about the combination of mint toothpaste and orange juice tasting terrible.

I chuckled too, finally understanding what had just happened. Esme still didn't understand, but she trusted my lead so she smiled at Bella and put the juice carton back into the fridge.

I decided to throw Bella a little slowpitch. "Where's Alice? Is she up too?" Either way, she couldn't really answer incorrectly. Alice was standing just out of sight of the kitchen and would play along with whatever Bella said.

My love rolled her eyes and giggled, "She picking what to wear. It could take a while." There was no trace of a lie in either her face or her voice. Alice was right; this was good practice for Bella. I was impressed with both of them.

Jasper stumbled by and muttered a groggy "good morning" as he passed us on the way to the television. This is a waste of my time, Edward. There's no need for me to manage the Chief's trust issues. His emotions are straightforward – he loves Bella, loves Esme, respects Carlisle and would gladly shoot you, but no more so than usual. So I'm out of this.

A moment later, Emmett wandered into the kitchen wearing a white undershirt and shorts. He looked surprised to see Charlie there. Then he deliberately looked desperate for an escape and yelled, "Jasper, run! It's the fuzz!"

I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Jackass," I muttered loudly.

Esme looked horrified at Emmett's outburst. Carlisle was shaking his head in disgust. I could hear that they both planned to take Emmett to task later, as soon as Bella's father left.

Strangely, the Chief knew exactly what they were thinking and opted to be amused by it all. He was only curious as to what Carlisle and Esme would do to Emmett. Actually, I was too. They still hadn't decided, although I liked Carlisle's ideas especially.

Still chortling at his own joke and at his family's reaction, Emmett greeted Charlie, "Morning, Chief Swan."

Grinning widely, Bella's father returned his greeting. Now there's a normal kid . . . I can relate to this one . . . better than Edward . . .still . . . glad he's not dating my daughter . . .wouldn't trust . . .

We all watched as Emmett walked over to the fridge. On the way he lifted the bunch of bananas from the counter and pulled off one small one. He put the small one back on the counter and kept the other four in his hand.

Then he opened the fridge and squatted down in front of it. He pulled the crisper drawer open and began loading his arms with a bunch of grapes, two apples, a grapefruit, and three oranges. He reached into the fridge door to pull out a large pack of beef jerky, which he added to his growing pile. He looked around and called to the next room, "Hey Jasper. You eating too?"

"Yeah, bring me some fruit, would you?" Jasper's voice floated back to us.

Emmett looked doubtfully down at the load in his arms and stood up. He grabbed the small banana he had rejected earlier and muttered, "You can have a banana." Turning, he kicked the fridge door shut behind him.

As he left, Charlie whistled. "That's some appetite he's got. I don't envy you your grocery bills."

Esme laughed. "You wouldn't believe how much those boys eat." She chuckled, "And you were worried if we'd mind feeding Bella on the odd occasion she stays for a meal with us?" She shook her head at the apparent irony.

Just then, I caught Emmett's thoughts. Damn him!

"Emmett, no!" Alice hissed at him from her position by the kitchen door. She could see his intentions as clearly as I could and was searching the possible futures for the outcome of his intended theatrics.

Ignoring her, he ambled back into the kitchen and waved a half peeled banana towards the Chief to accentuate his point. "Hey, it just occurred to me. You're checking up on Bella, aren't you?"

My brother – the king of tact!

Charlie's mind was spinning, looking for the right answer to that. A dark blush, reminiscent of his daughter's, spread across his cheeks and his breath faltered for a moment.

Bella froze, wide-eyed and shocked at Emmett's brazen performance. Her heart hammered almost as loudly as her father's. The glass clunked loudly as it slipped from her grasp and landed, still upright, on the countertop she was leaning on. Thankfully, it didn't break. At least half of Alice's visions had shown how badly this morning would have turned if that glass had broken and cut my Bella.

Obnoxiously ignorant of how close he'd just brought us all to the edge of disaster, Emmett blustered on, "Don't worry, Chief Swan. Bella couldn't be safer. Edward's practically gay." And with that pronouncement still ringing in the stunned silence, he chortled out of the kitchen.

I clutched the edge of the counter, desperately holding onto my temper. When I was sure neither one would break, I turned to Esme, "Tell me again how adopting just one more couldn't possibly hurt."

"Hey, don't talk about Bella like that! We're thrilled to add her to the family. It's you we're not sure about!" Emmett's taunt drifted in from the living room.

Overcoming his embarrassment, Charlie chuckled at my expense and made a half hearted attempt to hide it behind his hand. At least someone was having fun this morning.

Esme smiled apologetically and patted my hand. "In my defense, Edward, we didn't know he was a jackass until after we'd taken him in."

"Hey!" Emmett's outraged cry rang out.

It was my turn to laugh.

Charlie laughed, grateful again for Esme's diplomacy. "He seems to be a handful, Esme."

She shook her head ruefully, "You don't know the half of it, Charlie." Then she sighed, "He's a good boy though. He just talks too much – far, far too much," she whispered conspiratorially to him.

Carlisle called to Emmett, "Son, we're going to have a little talk about your manners."

Jasper's deep laughter drifted back to us. "You're in trouble now, Em."

Charlie grinned wider in amusement.

"We're going to have little talk too, you moron," Alice hissed through clenched teeth, too quietly for the Swans to hear. "Don't you dare blow me off when I tell you 'no'!" She stomped angrily back upstairs.

Jasper remarked dryly, again too low for human ears, "And now you're not just in trouble; you're completely screwed."

He laughed again at the look on Emmett's face.

Emmett directed his thoughts at me. What are you all upset about? Somebody had to call him on it. There's nothing like a little embarrassment to keep him from ever wanting to do this again! I just did you a favour, little brother! Remember that the next time Bella sleeps over. You might actually get somewhere with her if you don't have to get out of bed. And so might we! I'm telling you, Edward, the things that Rose can do with her . . .

I shut him out of my mind. I could NOT think of my sister like that!

It was time to turn this conversation away from my exasperating brother. I caught Bella's attention. "Would you like some french toast for breakfast, Bella?"

I grinned at her enthusiastic nod. I called to my brothers, "Hey Jasper, french toast? I'm cooking. What about you, jackass?"

Their enthusiastic grunts drifted into the kitchen.

Charlie frowned. "Didn't they just eat?"

Esme laughed, "That was just a snack to hold them till breakfast is ready. And Edward hasn't even started eating yet. He and Jasper can each eat almost as much as Emmett."

"My God." He shook his head at the thought of how much food our family must go through.

"Would you care for some french toast, Charlie? Mom? Carlisle?" I offered.

"No, thank you, Edward," my father answered smoothly and stood up. "Actually, I have an early shift at the hospital. I've got to go."

Charlie rose too. "I should go too. It's been a long night. I'm beat." Looking over at Bella, he asked, "Do you want a ride now or are you staying for a while longer?"

"I'd like to stay, if Esme doesn't mind."

My mother's answer was no surprise to anyone.

Esme walked with Charlie and Carlisle and saw them both off at the front door. My father paused to remind Emmett that they'd be talking later as soon as Carlisle got back.

Emmett groaned.

Once they were gone, I picked Bella up and sat her on the kitchen island. I stood between her knees and cupped her face with my hands. "You did very, very well," I told her honestly.

She beamed back at me, thoroughly pleased with herself and with the successful end of her father's visit.

I leaned in and kissed her deeply.

Emmett's voice preceded him as he came back towards the kitchen, "Hey Bella, want some fruit? I just peeled a bunch. Smells like crap but it must still be good . . ." Seeing us, his tone turned horrified, "Ewww, Edward! On the counter?! People eat there you know!"

I ignored him. I continued kissing Bella. I'd kill Emmett later.


End Note: Please let me know what you thought of this story. Or heck, let us know if you've ever had orange juice right after brushing your teeth. Gah! Makes me shudder just thinking about it! LOL