Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot of the Twilight Saga are the property of Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The storyline of People like us is mine.
WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS BDSM, EXPLICIT SEX SCENES & STRONG LANGUAGE.
A/N: PLEASE READ THE AUTHOR'S NOTE AT THE END OF THIS CHAPTER
At the end of Chapter 80:
"What the? Bella what are you doing Baby? You are soaked!"
Bella held out the envelope with a broad grin and tears in her eyes, "you have to read this..."
Edward frowned and he looked down at the envelope.
Jasper watched as his friends face turned pale when he read the return address.
With shaking fingers, Edward open the envelope and he pulled out the single sheet of paper.
"Fuck me…" he whispered and Bella nodded and began to laugh and cry at the same time.
Jasper looked from one to the other, "What the –"
Edward looked across at him with a blank look on his face, "Jazz, I've just been nominated for two Academy Awards."
PEOPLE LIKE US
The news of Edward's nominations for Best Original Score and Best Song brought with it a slew of invitations, events, dinners and publicity that turned the fairly quiet hamlet of St. Helena into a paparazzi haven over the next few weeks.
Esme was bombarded by the press when she went to the grocers and the hairdressers. Anderson and Brian had to bring in more security and they even had to add cameras when a couple photographers tried to take pictures outside Maggie and Reggie's bedroom window one morning.
Just at the time that Bella and Edward were adjusting to their new lives and roles, they had to learn how to overcome new challenges.
Over the past three years Bella had managed to have a fairly good relationship with the press and although Edward reminded her time and again that she had to take extra precautions, she brushed his concerns aside.
Until one event changed everything.
When Bella looked back on that day, she realized that it was a major turning point in all of their lives.
Two weeks after the nominations were made public; Edward had to attend a luncheon together with some of the executives from Pebbles Studio at the Regis Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills the following day.
Bella decided to make a special dinner because Edward would be away for two days to do some interviews as well. Aro had been wonderful in ensuring that she and Edward would have as much privacy as he could and after speaking to Bella, they agreed that it would be beneficial for Edward's musical career and for Rocking Horse Recording Studios if he capitalized on the publicity. He had also asked Jasper to go with him, which he was more than happy to do.
Bella sighed dramatically as she stared into the pantry midmorning. She could not believe that she had run out of tomato paste and canned tomatoes! She was making one of Edward's favorite Italian pasta dishes and she needed two cans of each.
Bella knew that she could cook something else, but she hadn't been shopping that week and she really wanted to cook a special dinner for Edward and so she made the snap decision to go into town. She quickly gathered all three children, changed diapers; breastfed Nicholas and she dressed the twins in their cute new duffel coats before she buckled them into their car seats and sent a text to Edward so that he wouldn't worry.
Maggie and Reggie were on a romantic cruise in the Mediterranean for three weeks, which had been her and Edward's Christmas gift.
Bella had reluctantly agreed to have two local cleaning women come in three mornings a week, one of which was also willing to babysit if the need arose.
Bella drove down the long driveway tapping her fingers on the steering wheel and humming to herself. She groaned when she stopped and indicated to turn onto the dirt road in front of the compound. There were two cars waiting for someone to leave the ranch.
Damn! She thought irritated.
She recognized the driver of one of the cars and his passenger with a guilty gasp.
There was no mistaking the creepy looking men, one was bald and the other had long, greasy hair. They were the men that had climbed over the fence and had been caught snooping around Maggie and Reggie's house!
What made Bella feel guilty was the fact that Edward, Jasper and Anderson had wanted to press charges, but Bella and Alice has argued for the men.
"Daddy is going to be so mad with Mama when I tell him." Bella said to Nicholas. He drooled and grinned at her drunkenly.
She sighed and smiled at Nicholas as she tried to ignore the two cars that pulled directly behind her, the asshole driving the car behind hers, had turned his bright beams on. Bella shook her head and ignored them as she drove away from the ranch compound and she had turned onto the winding road that led into St. Helena.
The cars behind her hugged the ass of her car like flies to shit and Bella was more grateful than ever that Edward had bought her a virtual tank with bullet proof tinted glass, bomb proof body and indestructible chassis.
She refused to speed with her children in the car and so she had to concentrate on driving straight, while the two cars swerved around her, as they tried to get a good shot of her or her passengers.
Thank God for darkened windows.
The road wound around the side of the mountain and although it was wide enough for two lanes, there was not much room on either side to overtake with most of the corners on the road being blind corners.
Bella tapped her fingers nervously as she forced herself to stay focused. She breathed a sigh of relief when she reached main street. She looked up at the sky and noticed that it was about to begin raining. The clouds hung low and heavy and were dark grey.
Bella parked across the parking lot that ran behind a row of shops. Bella put the children into the new 'triplet' pushchair that Esme and Carlisle had bought for her after Nicholas was born.
The pushchair had been imported from New Zealand, from a company that Esme had found online, who specialized in the pushchair that could be converted to carry one, two or three children of varied ages. What made it perfect was that it came with 'all terrain' wheels so that Bella could take the children for long walks over their land and if the toddlers became tired from running around, she could let them all get a ride comfortably.
Jackson and Alexis sat in the 'front' seat that face forwards and Nicholas was in the baby cradle seat that faced Bella.
She did her best to ignore the noisy men as they climbed out of the cars with loud shouts and cat calls to each other and her, she felt her blood begin to boil as she finished strapping Nicholas into his seat.
"Go Mama!" Jackson shouted with excitement. Going out with Mama in the new buggy meant that he was going to get treats from all his friends the shopkeepers that they passed. Jackson loved shopping!
She walked across the car park with her head held high as she silently cursed the five men that were now following her. These men gave paparazzi a bad name! Bella remembered when Aro had explained to her some time before that most members of the press were reputable but there were some that were without scruples and relentless and would do anything for a scoop, a story, an angle, an inside edge that would bring in 'the big bucks'. They were the ones that went through people's trash; they were the people that broke into properties and badgered neighbors, family, children just to sell a few tidbits of information and to make money.
Bella had been shocked at what a 'hot-topic' photograph, doctor's bill or prescription bottle could bring in! Aro had explained that some pictures were literally worth thousands, or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Millions even.
Bella had come to know most of the photographers that were decent and reputable. Although she kept a safe distance from all of the members of the press, there were a few that respected her and her children, but the low-life's that were following her were not amongst those.
"Hey Beeelllla, come on Baby, slow down…"
"Yeah, Belllar – show us the rug rats – let's have a picture…"
"You look delicious in those jeans; Edward is a lucky, lucky man…"
There were some sniggers and a few jeers.
Fucking assholes! Bella thought fiercely as she walked quickly towards the shops.
Bella was relieved when she rounded the corner and she stepped onto the sidewalk on Main Street. There were a few more people around than the deserted parking lot and she slowed her pace down as she walked past the large display window of the Italian delicatessen where she bought most of her Italian food products. Saska Marcello looked up and when she saw Bella with the stroller, she ran outside to greet her with a huge smile on her face, "Bella! Let me see the new bambino!"
Bella plastered a smile on her face and she stopped to wait for the woman.
After she had enthused over how good-looking Nicholas and what a perfect combination of Edward and Bella he was; she ushered Bella inside the store and promptly closed the door after glaring at the noisy cameramen.
Bella grinned at the fourth generation shopkeeper, whose parents still made a large amount of the delicious Italian delicacies as did 'Mama Marcello', who was Mrs. Marcello's grandmother and who was almost ninety years old.
Saska had worked in some of the grandest hotels in Europe after finishing at chef's school and she had met her fiancée in Rome. Gianni and Saska took over the running of the delicatessen when Saska's father had fallen ill.
She was excited because she and her handsome Italian were due to be married in a month's time.
Saska and Bella chatted, while Gianni gave the toddlers each an oatmeal and chocolate cookie that he had just pulled out of the oven. There was a small play area in a corner of the shop where the twins got busy with some bright plastic baking utensils, bowls and pots.
When Saska found out that Edward was going to be away, she insisted on packing extra Cioccolatini, the delicious assorted chocolate candies that Saska's mother and grandmother made each day. Edward's favorite was Baci, a mixture of crushed hazelnuts and chocolate. Saska winked at Bella as she packed in some of Bella's favorite treats, Boeri, which was a brandied cherry inside a rich, dark chocolate ball.
Bella shook her head, "Saska, you are going to make me fat!" She complained half-heartedly.
Saska laughed, "You are lucky that Mama isn't here, Bella, she would be very angry that you are so thin again! After three babies, you should be plumping up a little, but look at you! Are you back to what you were before you were pregnant with this handsome young man?" Saska asked as she bounced Nicholas on her knee.
Bella blushed as Gianni grinned at her appreciatively, "Well, I think that I'm about three pounds up on my pre-pregnancy weight, but I'm struggling to shift it." Bella had begun to work out as soon as she was able. Long walks with the children in the pram had helped, as had yoga, palates and the four cardio workouts that she did religiously.
Saska laughed and pointed to Bella's larger than normal breasts, "You are still breast-feeding, right?"
Bella nodded as her pink cheeks turned even redder.
Saska shrugged, "Well, that's how it should be; you can't feed this growing bambino, here if you have skinny breasts," she used her hands to mould her own amble bosom and Bella rolled her eyes as she felt her cheeks pink up, "Come on! – You are a woman and you should look like one with curves in all the right places, yes?"
Bella nodded as she laughed. Saska was a wonderful mixture of new generation and old country.
She was forward and outspoken but she was charming and warm. Bella admired the young woman's matter-of –fact approach to life and motherhood. She knew that Saska and Gianni wanted to have a baby as soon as possible.
Bella remembered why she had come into town and after she had purchased the tomatoes, some delicious cold cuts that she couldn't resist as well as some amoretto cookies and a bag of biscotti's that she was taking to a play date at Alice the following morning, Bella left the shop, after Jackson and Alexis had spent five minutes blowing kisses, which melted Saska's heart and earned them another cookie.
Gianni insisted on accompanying her back to her car. He held a huge golf umbrella over himself, Bella, and the stroller. He helped Bella put the twins into their seats and immediately Bella could see that they were tired from their outing as they both put their thumbs into their mouths and Bella handed Alexis her blanket or her 'do-do' and Jackson his sheep or as he called it, his 'Ba!'.
Nicholas had fallen asleep and Bella tucked small traveling blankets over each child.
Gianni put Bella's bags and the stroller into the back of the car and he stood guard like an Italian version of Emmett, with his arms crossed over his stocky chest and his almost black eyes glaring at the semi-circle of flashing cameras.
As Bella buckled herself into her seat, Gianni stuck his head in her window, his forehead was creased in concern, "Will you be okay, Signora Bella?"
Bella looked in her rearview mirror and she frowned when she saw the two cars just waiting for her to drive away. She tried to smile reassuringly at her friend, "We will be fine, Gianni, it's not far and I will be careful, I promise."
Gianni nodded and he stepped back so that Bella could pull her car out of the parking lot. He watched the black car as it rounded the corner and glared once again at the loud occupants of the cars that followed as their tires squealed on the tar.
He was frowning when he got back to the shop and Saska put her hand on his arm.
Cosa c'è di sbagliato?" she asked quietly. What is wrong?
Gianni stared outside the shop into the peaceful street as though he was deep in thought, "Non sono sicuro, ma ho una brutta sensazione di Isabella Cullen e quei bambini. Quei fotografi sembrava molto aggressive oggi. Forse non è niente…" he said in a somber tone. I'm not sure, but I have a bad feeling about Isabella Cullen and those babies. Those photographers seemed very aggressive today. Maybe it's nothing..."
With a sigh and a quick pat to Saska's bottom, Gianni tried to concentrate take his mind off Bella's worried and nervous face as she smiled and bravely assured him that she was going to be fine.
Bella had been a little longer than she first thought and the twins and Nicholas fell asleep before she left town and headed back home. It was getting dark, even though it was not late. The rain had turned from a drizzle to a steady downpour and Bella kept an eye on the rearview mirror and she stiffened when she saw the headlights flashing at her as one of the cars behind her made a move to overtake.
Good, let them pass, she thought to herself.
She pulled the Lincoln to the side of the road slightly and let them pass.
That was her first mistake.
Too late Bella realized that she had merely played into the drivers hands when she watched the driver brake sharply in front of her, which made her hit her brakes.
She quickly checked the children, but they were still dozing. Bella made sure that her phone was in the car consol.
Bella felt fear rise in her throat. She wasn't afraid for herself, but she had her children in the car.
There were no other cars around either. Bella knew that she still had at least fifteen minutes to drive before she would get to the long dirt road that led to the ranch.
Edward and Jasper had tried to have the road privatized but they had not been successful so far.
Bella saw a farm truck headed towards them and she contemplated flashing her lights but she didn't want to provoke the drivers of the other cars.
"What to do? What to do? THINK BELLA!" she muttered to herself. The remaining car behind her had pulled up close and had begun hooting at her as the driver flashed his lights. This woke up the children and now that their sleep had been interrupted, Jackson and Alexis were whining and Nicholas began to cry. Bella began to sing to them, in a warily voice.
If she wasn't on the verge of tears herself, she would have laughed at the startled expressions on the twins faces. They looked at her with a wide-eyed 'what the fuck was that?' look on their faces before Bella saw their lower lips tremble.
"Oh no! No! Don't cry, Possums! Mama was singing, I promise! I didn't ride over some animal or anything! Come on, please don't cry…" Bella said as she felt her own chin begin to wobble.
Bella had learned a few things from driving with Anderson and Brian for all that time. From time to time Andy would sprout out a few words of advice for maneuvering out of a tight spot and defensive driving.
"Rule number one Bella, never ever allow yourself to get boxed in. Even if it means that you have to take the offense. Don't let fear take over. Keep your head. Think of what you can do to attract attention or to distract your pursuer. Never let yourself be put in danger. And whatever you do, do not stop your vehicle or get out of it!"
She looked up and realized the car from behind her was trying to move her across the road, closer to the edge where the road dropped sharply down the hill.
Thank you, Andy!
"Not a fuck are you pushing me off the road, asshole!." Bella said grimly as she gritted her teath and she silently asked Edward to forgive her for her next move.
She was about to ruin her lovely paintwork.
Bella swung her wheel slightly to the left and her car swerved towards the car that was trying to edge her over.
The driver swerved and fell behind again Bella could see him hooting, cursing and yelling at her.
"Serves you right buddy!" She snarled. The jerking movement of the car had startled the three children and they began to whimper in earnest, almost as if they could sense Bella's rising panic and fear.
The car in front and the one behind her began to creep closer to her front and rear bumpers and Bella knew that it was going to get dangerous because they had just begun their accent up the side of the mountain.
Bella felt the bile rising in her throat as the cars had effectively sandwiched Bella in, so that she had the drop-off from the road on one side and oncoming traffic lane on the other.
Suddenly Bella remembered that her car was hi-jack proofed – it was fitted with an alarm should it get bumped or knocked while in motion. Her GPS location would automatically be sent to the security office at the ranch and to Emmett's firm's task room! She also had a panic button – Edward had showed her the feature when she had been given the car – her hooter would sound continuously and the car would light up like a fucking Christmas tree until she deactivated it!
Stupid! I should have remembered this before!
Bella looked into the back seat. "Mama is sorry babies, please hold on!"
She took a deep breath and pressed the button on the dash board three times and then she pushed her foot hard onto her accelerator.
The lights on her car began to flash as the car surged forward and hit the back of the blue suburban in front of her.
She saw the startled face of the men in the first car as she relaxed her foot momentarily and then with grim determination she pressed forward again. Again she hit the rear of the car.
This time the car that was behind her pulled over into the oncoming lane and swerved into the side of her as they tried to force her off the road.
"WHAT THE FUCK, ARE YOU DOING?" Bella screamed in a blind panic now. She could feel tears of fear running down her cheeks.
She knew that she had gone too far to back off now, if she stopped, there was no telling what would happen.
Bella bit her lip and ignored the screams of the startled children as she flicked the steering wheel and she heard the metallic screech as she forced the small compact to move across the road before she pulled back into her lane.
Suddenly Bella's phone rang and she was thankful that she had hands free technology and then she heard Anderson on the line.
"BELLA! BELLA! WHAT'S HAPPENED?"
Bella realized that she was crying as she tried to shout over the childrens cries, "ANDY! HELP – WE ARE ABOUT…"
"I KNOW WHERE YOU ARE – BRIAN AND I ARE ON OUR WAY! JUST HANG ON, STAY CALM! ARE YOU IN DANGER?"
Bella let out a sob, "YES! HURRY!"
The line went dead.
Bella looked up and saw the car in front of her hit a slick patch in the rain and she watched horrified, as it fish-tailed as the driver over-corrected the skid into the next corner towards the guard-railing.
In slow motion Bella watched the front car flip over as it hit the barrier. The car that was next to her drove straight into the undercarrage of the now stationary vehicle that was lying upside down and Bella realized that she was headed towards them.
At the last moment Bella swerved around the two smashed cars, into the oncoming lane. She prayed that she would not lose control as she carrered around the bend doing almost fifty miles an hour.
Her back bumper caught the side of the one vehicle but her car stayed steady.
She took her foot off the pedals and the Lincoln rolled to a stop. Bella was breathing so hard, dry sobbing that there was fog on the inside of the winows.
Bella saw headlights coming towards them.
Flashing blue and red lights.
She sat still and stared ahead. For a moment she didn't hear anything, other than the loud pounding of her own heart. She could feel the pulse jumping wildly in her throat. She hadn't been so scared since Jacob had attacked them.
The children were screaming but her hands were shaking so hard that she could take her seatbelt off – she couldn't get to them.
She didn't see anything other than the fat drops of rain on her windscreen and the flashing lights.
The sound of her name brought her out of her shock-induced state and she turned and saw Anderson outside her window.
Bella released the locks and suddenly it seemed like there were a hundred people swarming around them.
Bella heard her children screaming and she began to fight the arms that were restraining her.
"LET ME GO!"
"Stay still Bella! We've got them!" She heard Edward's voice in the back seat. His voice sounded unnaturally calm and void of any expression.
Anderson ignored her struggles as he unbuckled her and lifted her out of the car as Bella tried to see Edward.
He was crouched in the back seat with the twins clutched in his arms. Bella could see Jasper holding Nicholas. The rain was beating down on them but Bella didn't feel anything. She felt as if her heart was going to stop beating.
And it almost did when she saw blood on Edward's white shirt.
Bella pulled herself out of Anderson's hold quickly and she stood in the rain in front of her battered car and vomited violently into the wet road.
As she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, she realized that somehow she was bleeding.
She felt no pain anywhere, nothing. She felt nothing.
Someone put a bottle of water into her hand and ordered her to drink it slowly. Bella was shaking so hard that she could barely hold the bottle.
In the next minute, two paramedics were strapping her onto a gurney.
There were police and paramedics all over the road as Bella was carried to an ambulance.
"What are you doing? I'm fine! I just need to get to my children! LET ME GO!" Bella stared at the paramedic and Anderson with wild panic in her eyes.
She was startled to hear Edward's voice harsh and low, "That is fucking enough Isabella! You are scaring the children even more than they have been! Now shut up and let's get to the fucking hospital!"
Bella turned around and watched Jasper and Nicholas climb in next to her. A paramedic was pressing a swab to her forehead but Bella was not aware of anything as she stared at her husband's face.
Edward's face was a blank mask of calm. Pale, and blank. There was no expression. No anger, fear, hatred. Nothing.
He didn't even look at her as the paramedic slammed the doors closed and Edward walked over to another waiting ambulance and climbed in holding the twins tightly to his chest.
"My purse…" she said vaguely but Jasper answered her quietly, "Anderson has it. He is taking care of everything. Just relax and don't worry."
Nicholas stared at her from Jasper's arms and she held out her hand to him, "Can… can I hold him?" She asked.
Jasper looked from her shaking hands to her white face, "Bella, you are in sever shock, Honey. Why don't you lie down and relax. I've got the little guy."
Bella felt as if she was under water. Nothing made sense. Nothing seemed real. She frowned as she tried to make sense of what had happed. Her entire body was shaking and the paramedic quickly pulled a thick grey blanket around her shoulders. Bella didn't notice.
Nicholas was pressed into Jasper's neck, Jasper's big hands held him closely to his body as he whispered soft noises to the baby.
Where was Edward? Why wasn't he with her? He had taken the twins.
The ambulance stopped and then the doors were opened. Bella saw Carlisle's pale face etched with anxiety as he reached for her.
"Thank God, Bella!" he said before he turned to a emergency room nurse, "Take my daughter to trauma one, they are waiting for her." Just before she was wheeled away, Carlisle put his hand on Bella's arm, "It'll be okay, Sweetheart, I promise you."
Bella nodded mutely and she blinked back tears as she heard the sirens of other ambulances pulling into the car park.
Nothing made sense. She was supposed to be home, cooking a special meal for Edward. But she wasn't. She was here, in the rain, with God only knew how many people injured or maybe worse because she hadn't wanted to press charges against two scumbags!
She had hurt her children! She had failed to protect them!
Bella was wheeled into a treatment room and almost instantly she was hit with a barrage of questions ranging from her name to where she was going and the names of her children.
Bella did as she was told. She answered the questions that were posed to her, but the doctor could see that she was in deep shock. Her eyes were vacant and lost. She had an air of vulnerability about her. And the slightly puzzled look of a person that wasn't quite sure why they were there.
Dr. Caswell couldn't believe that she was alone, but he also knew that her husband, Edward Cullen was with their three young children up in Peds. The doctor frowned, but still, this woman shouldn't have been left alone, he thought.
Two hours later Bella had been fitted with a neck brace for her whiplash, a scan and an x-ray had been done and they were sure that Bella was suffering from whiplash, possibly a small concussion from the gash on her forehead that had needed a couple of stitches and the doctor gave her a couple of prescriptions for pain killers and muscle relaxants as well as a list of aftercare for herself.
Bella had not heard a word.
He told Bella that she was suffering from shock and that it would take a few days to wear off and he advised her to get as much rest as possible.
"You are good to go Mrs. Cullen." The attending doctor, Doctor Caswell told her kindly.
Bella nodded, "Can you tell me where my children are?" she asked quietly. She hadn't seen Edward, Jasper, Anderson or Carlisle since she had been admitted.
Dr. Caswell looked up from writing his notes with a frown, "I think that they were taken up to pediatrics. Hold on, let me find out for you."
Bella felt as if her heart was going to stop beating. Even though the logical side of her brain was trying to tell her that it was good that Edward was with the children, her heart was breaking.
He left me… maybe he blames me… maybe he doesn't want the children around me.
Doctor Caswell hurried to the nurses' station. He leaned forward, "Where are the Cullen children?" He bit back curse as the nurses seemed to dissolve at the name of the handsome movie star.
Caswell pounded his fists on the counter.
"Sorry Doctor, the children are up in Peds with Edward," sigh "Jasper and some other people."
Caswell glared at the other nurses, "Don't you have somewhere to be? And get me a wheel chair immediately! Trauma one!" he barked.
He stalked back to the beautiful woman in Trauma room one. Bella Cullen was breathtakingly beautiful in an ethereal, fragile sort of way. Her eyes were large and soulful. Her bone structure was fine and her skin was pale like fine Dresden china.
He moved the curtain aside and saw Bella sitting on the side of the bed staring at the wall.
"They are up in pediatrics. I am just waiting for a wheel chair and we will get you reunited with your babies."
Bella's eyes filled with tears as she bit her lip and nodded. She winced as she got off the table and she sat down in the wheelchair. Her entire body felt stiff and sore and she couldn't stop shaking.
Doctor Caswell made sure that a nurse pushed Bella up to the pediatric floor.
Bella heard Nicholas' cry as soon as the lift doors opened. She was up and out of the chair and sprinting down the hallway. She could feel her milk leaking through her wet top and jersey as his heartbroken cries grew louder.
All common sense left Bella as she stopped just inside a small waiting room where Esme was trying to get Nicholas to drink from a bottle, but he was pushing it away and screaming.
"Give him to me!" Bella hardly recognized her own voice. It was like a feral growl.
Esme gasped at the disheveled and battered woman in the doorway, with eyes that were blazing with a mother tigress's fire.
Without a word Esme nodded at a chair and Bella sank down as her arms reached out for her son.
Bella didn't hesitate to lift her jersey and T-shirt, even though her brothers-in-law were sitting across the room from her. Alice was holding her hands in front of her mouth as she stared at Bella. She turned her face into Jasper's neck and she began to cry all over again.
Jasper's arms tightened around his tiny wife's body as her sobs wracked her body. He could feel her desperation and sadness as she held him. He felt the same way.
Bella pushed her bra down and held Nicholas against her breast. He grunted hungrily as his mouth closed over her nipple and he sucked hard. Bella hadn't realized that her breasts were full until that moment when Nicholas latched on to her.
Esme looked from where Bella was almost crouching on the small seat, with her body wrapped protectively around her small son to where Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper sat staring sadly at them.
She caught Rosalie's eye and motioned to the hallway outside. Rose got up and followed her mother-in-law.
"Rosie, I need you to stay close to Bella while I go and see how Edward and the twins are doing." She said quietly, glancing at Bella over Rosalie's shoulder.
"Sure Mom. Is Bella okay? She looks so…" Rosalie didn't know what to say to describe the vacant, shell-shocked look on Bella's face. She looked – old and drawn. Her skin was pasty and grey/white. Her eyes looked lifeless and vacant and her mouth was chapped and red from where Bella had obviously been chewing her lips. There were bloodstains down her jersey and on her hands.
The dressing on her forehead stood out starkly against her clammy skin. Her hair was mattered with blood, limp from the rain and hung in rats' tails around her face.
Esme nodded, "I know, Sweetheart, that's why I need to find Edward and Dad. Bella cannot be alone right now. Edward is…"
Rosalie's eyes hardened, "Edward is being ridiculous! He was so rude and abrasive when we arrived! When I asked where Bella was, he just told me to get the fuck out and to find her myself." Rosalie spat the words out.
Esme sighed, "I know but they are both in shock, Rosie. I think we all are. None of us could have anticipated this happening..."
"He did." They both turned at the small voice behind them. Bella stood with Nicholas clutched against her chest as if to protect her.
Her eyes looked at the women sadly, "Edward did. He told me to take extra care. He told me to make sure that the – the children were safe. He told me not," tears began to pour down her face, "He told me not to take any chances, to have security with us, but I didn't listen. I didn't protect them." Bella gulped a sob back and carried on, "I'm not a good mother…" she whispered, half to herself.
"Bella, Sweetheart, no! Don't even think that!" Esme began but Rosalie cut her off as she stepped forward and put her hands on Bella's shoulders and gave her a quick shake.
Bella winced at the harsh grip as her eyes flew up to meet her sister-in-laws fiery blue glare, "Isabella Cullen, don't you give me that bullshit! Stop feeling so fucking sorry for yourself and go and see your babies! You are a great fucking mother do you hear me? You live and breathe for your family. You didn't do anything wrong! You thought that you were safe - hell, we all think that we are safe but accidents happen every day, Bella! This is not your fault! Do you understand me?" She shook her again but this time Emmett's hands shot out and he pulled Rosalie away.
"Rose damnit! Bella has a neck injury and you are shaking her? Are you crazy?" He pushed Rosalie firmly behind him before he turned back to face Bella, his eyes dark with concern.
"Bella, why don't we go and see the possums, okay Honey?" He ignored the half protests from his wife and mother and put his arm gently around Bella's hunched shoulders. He gave everyone a warning glare as he shepherded Bella down the hallway.
Esme was wringing her hands together as she watched Bella and Emmett walk slowly towards the treatment room where Edward, Carlisle and the twins were.
"He just has such an irrational temper; I'm worried about what he is going to say to that child." Esme said quietly to the room at large.
Alice had been sitting on Jasper's lap and now she raised her red and puffy face to her mother, "He had better not say anything stupid! I know that he is upset, but this wasn't her fault!"
Jasper was trying to stay calm and level-headed, but only he understood.
He had been with Edward and he knew what had happened when Anderson had raced into the recording office, screaming for Edward, telling them that there had been an accident or something, but that Bella had pushed the panic button and had told Anderson that she and the babies were in danger.
Edward's legs had sagged and if Jasper grabbed hold of him as he let out a howl of pain.
Two SUV's had raced towards the scene seconds later. Edward had not moved on his own. Jasper had pulled him towards the waiting car and had shoved him inside it. It had been as if he was frozen.
As they had rounded a corner, they had seen two cars, one on it's roof and the other had crashed into it and just in front of the cars was Bella's Lincoln. They could just make out Bella's white face in the driver's side.
"Nononononono…" Jasper had become aware that Edward was chanting the word over and over.
When Edward saw the car, he gasped and his hand had reached out and gripped Jasper's in a death grip.
The car had barely stopped when Edward had opened the door and then he was stumbling, tripping in the rain and the muddy road towards the doors. He heard Alexis and Jackson's screams and he had almost ripped the door of its hinges to get to his children.
As soon as they saw him, their cries had escalated. Edward pulled them out of their car seats and he wasn't aware of anything except the small trickle of blood falling from Alexis' mouth, dripping onto her pink duffle coat.
His cries echoed the childrens as he clutched them against his wet chest.
"Da-deeee!" Jackson's small fingers gripped his neck and his shirt and Edward let his hot tears fall onto the toddlers' silky hair.
He was dimly aware of a paramedic urging him to take the children to the ambulance and then he had heard Bella shouting for the twins and he knew that he had said something to her but he could not take his eyes of his two oldest children and he didn't look in her direction.
He just wanted to make sure that everyone was okay and he knew that if he stopped for one minute, one second, he was going to breakdown and he needed to be strong for them.
He was supposed to protect them! Edward had never hated himself more than he did as the ambulance hurtled towards the hospital.
The twins had calmed down and Edward was almost surprised to see that they were both still clutching their 'do-do' and 'Ba!'. They were both sucking their thumbs, although Alexis was moaning because she had split her lip. They would not let go of Edward but he coaxed them to at least sit still so that the paramedic could check them over quickly.
Their car seats had prevented them from being seriously injured but they could not rule out whiplash or other small cuts, loose teeth and bruises, which they would attend to at the hospital.
When their ambulance pulled into the entrance, the doors flew open and Edward's eyes met the red rimmed eyes of his father. Carlisle reached frantically for the huddled group and he half lifted them all out of the back of the vehicle. Carlisle managed to pull Jackson into his arms and together the group made their way up to Pediatrics where there was a full staff, including a surgical staff on hand to examine and attend to Dr. Cullen's grandchildren.
The news had spread like wildfire and although details were sketchy, apparently there were other cars involved and no one was sure if like Princess Diana, the press had been chasing her or if they meant to run her off the road, but somehow, Bella Cullen had managed to evade the wreckage with only a small amount of damage to herself.
While Edward and Carlisle looked after the babies, Jasper had taken care of baby Nicholas, who seemed fine to the first initial examination but he still received a full body exam once they reached the hospital and even though Edward could hear his infant son's cries, he couldn't leave the twins.
Esme had been fixing herself a pot of tea when she had heard the sirens as they raced through the town. When her phone had rung seconds later, she felt a knot of tension grip her stomach.
"Esme, I need you to stay calm." Carlisle's voice sounded – dead.
Carlisle's words had caused her to drop her mug on the polished hardwood floor of the entrance hall.
"Just tell me," she had said.
"It's Bella and the children – I don't know much but – they are alive and on their way here." Esme heard Carlisle struggle to maintain control, "I need you," he whispered and then the line went dead.
Esme dropped the phone and the next thing she was driving towards the hospital. It was only when she got there that she realized she was wet to the skin. She had driven with her window wound down and it had rain inside her car without her realizing it.
She dripped a trail of rain water down the hallway to the emergency nurses station. She could not believe that just a few months before she had been all smiles and joy, celebrating her latest grandson's birth and now, just four months later, her grandbabies and there precious mother were somewhere in this place.
The faces of the nurses reflected their shock at the news that Edward Cullen's family had been in a car accident which had been caused by paparazzi. One of the nurses looked up and when she saw the disheveled state of the usually impeccably dressed Esme Cullen and the nurse whipped around the desk and gently took Esme's arm.
"Mrs. Cullen!" Esme looked up with haunted and frightened eyes and the nurse smiled sympathetically, "The Chief asked me to take you right up to Peds. Mr. Cullen, Mr. Whitlock and the children are all up there now."
Esme allowed herself to be led upstairs. When she walked into the first examining room, she saw Jasper holding Nicholas, who was protesting loudly. She burst into tears at the sound of the baby's cries.
Jasper looked up and whispered into Nicholas' ear and as young as he was, he recognized his Nana and his little hand reached out to her.
Esme cuddled him gently against her, making sure to keep the warm thermal blanket that was wrapped around Nicholas between him and her wet shirt.
Jasper hugged her and kissed her cheek, "They think he is fine now, but we have to wait for the results of the x-ray and the scan that they did, to check for any broken or cracked bones. Edward and Carlisle are with the twins next door. The doc told me that they are fine, just that Alexis bit her cheek and lip, but Carlisle says that it isn't serious and she is going to be fine. They also have to check their necks and shoulders for whiplash and shaken baby syndrome, which is why he insisted that they have full body scans and x-rays."
Esme could only nod as she felt her tears run down her cheeks. She rocked Nicholas and looked at Jasper, "How is Bella?" she asked.
Jasper looked at her sheepishly before he gave her a half shrug, "I don't know?" he avoided Esme's frown of disapproval and stared at his muddy boots, "I've been here and Edward's with the twins, so…"
Esme shook her head, "So she is all alone? Was she hurt, bleeding, do you even know? Or care?" she could hear her own voice rising with each word but she didn't care a damn.
Bella was alone! She had been frightened out of her mind, and now she was hurt and alone?
She opened her mouth and then she heard Edward roar, "GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE ROSALIE! JUST FUCKING LEAVE! I DON'T NEED YOUR BRAND OF SHIT! GO AND FIND HER IF YOU CARE SO MUCH! !"
The next moment, a sobbing Rosalie and a very pissed looking Alice walked into the room. They flew over to where Jasper and Esme were sitting on the exam table.
Jasper pulled Alice into his arms as she and Rosalie fussed over Nicholas before she glared at her mother-in-law.
"Your son is an asshole! You would think that he blames Bella by the way that he behaved just now!"
Esme shook her head quickly, "Rosalie! That is enough! Edward would never blame Bella! I don't know what happened but this couldn't have been her fault, accidents happen!"
Alice shook her head, "I don't know Mom, there were two cars involved in that crash that we saw and Bella's car looked like it had been squashed between two cars or something. Who knows what Edward is thinking…"
Esme was shocked. "Two cars?"
Jasper nodded, "I think that they were those low-life bastards that we caught the other day at Maggie's place…"
This time Alice, Rosalie and Esme gasped.
"OH NO!" Alice said as she looked at Jasper, "We, Bella and I, insisted that they be let go. We thought that if we let them go, they would back off…"
Her voice died off as she stared at the others. Fresh tears leaked from her eyes, "Are they, are they injured?" She asked.
Jasper's face hardened to stone, "I. Do. Not. Give. A. Fuck. They could have killed Bella and the children!"
No one said anything for a while as the truth of his words sank in. The doctor came back into the room and told them that as far as all the tests were concerned, Nicholas was fine. He cautioned them to look for signs of discomfort or pain over the next few days, but he didn't think that there would be any lasting complications.
They were shown to a waiting room and a nurse brought Esme a bottle of milk for Nicholas. He refused to drink it and then Bella had arrived.
Nicholas had immediately reached for his mother.
Alice and Rosalie had been sitting at Alice's house, enjoying an afternoon together when Brian had banged on Alice's front door.
He had told Alice and Rosalie that there had been an 'incident' that that he was there to take them to the hospital.
Jessica was left with the children as a shocked Alice and Rosalie were bundled into the waiting SUV and Brian took off.
When they had come across the accident scene, Alice and Rosalie had clung to each other. Bella's car was a mess. The front and back fenders were bashed in and the entire driver's side and passenger sides was dented and scraped.
The two cars on the opposite side of the road, on the bend were a mess. There was broken glass, mud, parts of the cars lying all over the road.
The police were still at the scene and after they had flagged Brian down and they realized who was in the car, they had wasted no time in escorting them to the hospital.
Emmett was in a meeting with a new client when the red phone on his desk began to ring. He had excused himself and had answered the phone.
The red phone meant only one thing.
"What?" Emmett barked out.
"Emmett, it's Bella Cullen– she hit the alarm in her car –"
Emmett was already standing up, "Do we know where she is?"
"Yes, her location is-"
"Alert the police, highway patrol and emergency services – and get the chopper up – NOW!"
He was pulling on his jacket and with a rushed apology to his startled client he ran out the door, shouting to his secretary over his shoulder to call Garrett and Kate.
When he got to the helipad on the roof, the helicopter was waiting for him.
He strapped himself in, "MOVE!"
As they rose up into the overcast sky, Emmett dialed Anderson's number.
Anderson explained as much as he knew and Emmett felt the blood drain from his face as he listened. Once he had disconnected the call, he turned to the pilot, "TAKE ME TO ST. HELENA HOSPITAL!"
The pilot received permission to land on the hospital's helipad and before he could get further instructions, Emmett was out and running across the lawns, unmindful of the downpour.
"Cullen!" was all he said when he arrived and the gob smacked nurses stuttered "F-f-f-first floor!"
Emmett raced up the stairs, taking them three at a time.
He walked in and saw Alice, Rosalie, Jasper, Esme and little Nicolas in her arms.
"Em!" Rosalie jumped up and threw herself into Emmett's arms.
Once he had an update on everyone, except Bella, he told them what he knew so far. They would have to wait for Bella before they knew the whole truth.
Emmett saw Bella walk in and begin to nurse the baby. She looked to be in shock. He remembered what she looked like after the attack and she looked just the same.
He saw his mother and Rosalie talking quietly outside the room. Once Nicholas was full, Bella had pulled her damp clothes down and without looking at anyone she stood up and walked over to where Rosalie and Esme were still talking.
His eyes widened when Rosalie had turned around and she begun to shake Bella. Emmett jumped up and he shot across the room to stop her from hurting Bella.
After he had berated her, he looked down at Bella and he could see that she was beyond anything else except seeing her children at that point.
He put his arm gently around her shoulders and led her away.
"Em.." he heard his mother say, but he looked over his shoulder and gave them all a silent warning – leave Bella alone, she has had enough!
Emmett could feel Bella's body trembling against his side and he pulled her closer, "Are you cold?" He asked.
Bella shrugged, "I don't… um I don't know." She said in a small voice. He felt a lump in his throat. He hated seeing his sister like this, but he knew that only Bella and Edward could fix this.
She sounded so small and lost.
When they reached the door of the exam room, Bella stopped.
The doctor was talking to Edward and Carlisle.
"…so the cut on Alexis' lip and inside her cheek are really minor. I have prescribed ointment to put on that will sooth the tenderness. You have the checklist for any whiplash. I have also prescribed a mild analgesic for any muscular discomfort. If you are concerned, please don't hesitate to bring them back or to see your doctor."
Bella's body was rigid until she let out a strangled sob.
Edward swung around and they looked at each other for the first time. Bella swallowed and let her eyes fall to the floor quickly. She felt so ashamed of the danger that she had put their children in.
The doctor cleared his throat and said good bye. He stopped next to Bella and smiled, "Mrs. Cullen, your children are fine except for a slight bruising from the seat belts and a small cut in Alexis' lip and cheek. They are fine." He said before he excused himself.
Bella nodded once in acknowledgement.
They weren't fine! She had caused this! She had damaged them; she had done this!
The voice that had been silent inside her for so long, whispered, you are no better than Renee – at least she didn't try to kill her children…
SHUT THE FUCK UP! Bella screamed in her head.
Bella shifted on her feet, she was afraid to look at Edward. She wasn't sure what she would see in his face – disgust? Hatred? Condemnation? Anger? She felt all of those things for herself, so why shouldn't he?
The children had fallen asleep in their arms and Bella's eyes raked over them hungrily.
They looked fine, except for the tearstains on their cheeks.
And the dried blood on Alexis' little pink duffle coat that Alice had bought her. Bella felt her stomach roll and as she clamped her hand over her mouth, Emmett grabbed a waste paper basket in the corner and shoved it at her as he pulled Nicholas from her arms.
Bella turned her back on the men in the room as she emptied her stomach contents. Her legs were shaking so hard that she put one hand on the wall and let herself drop to her knees. She was crying and gasping for air as her stomach retched and rolled until she was dry heaving.
Her babies were damaged. She had spoilt their perfect little bodies with her carelessness. She had made them frightened and scared. She had promised herself that she would never, ever do that and she had.
Finally the heaving stopped. Bella felt sick and dizzy. She rolled forward on her knees and rested her head against the cold wall as she panted and tried to catch her breath.
What would Carlisle and Esme think of her now? What would Charlie say? Would he write her off like he had done to –
"Stop that, Bella. You are not to blame."
Bella jerked as she felt Edward's hand on her back. His touch seared her like a red-hot poker, his words made her begin to cry again.
Bella tried to curl herself into a ball but Edward pulled her back against him as he sat on the floor in the small room.
Bella fought him at first, but he was stronger and he wouldn't let her go. Eventually she went limp in his arms and he pulled her between his legs. She didn't fight when he turned her around and pulled her legs over his so that they were pressed against each other from the groin to where Bella's head was tucked firmly beneath his chin.
Edward held her as they cried. His body shook with his sobs and he let his tears fall into her mattered, limp hair.
Bella hands had hung by her sides until she felt and heard Edward's agonized cry. Her hands snaked around his waist then and her fingers clutched at the damp fabric of his T-shirt. Her arms tightened around him until they were both holding each other as tightly as humanly possible.
Their cries died down until they were left simply holding each other. Edward reveled in the feeling of Bella's body against his.
Bella realized that the room was deserted except for Edward and her self.
"I thought that I had lost you," he whispered hoarsely.
Bella stiffened, "I-I-I-I'm s-s-s-s-o s-s-s-o-o-o-rrry, Edward." Bella cringed at the way she sounded. Her throat felt raw and she knew that she was only stuttering from nerves, but she couldn't help it.
Edward looked up to see Carlisle standing in the doorway.
"Let's go home, Son. Come on, bring Bella and let's go home. Everyone needs to get bathed and changed into dry, warm clothes. The babies need to eat and sleep."
Edward nodded. He stood up first and reached down for Bella. She looked at him before she put her trembling hand into his. Carlisle handed her a small bottle of water and Bella swallowed half of its contents, grimacing from the taste of bile in her mouth, but the water soothed her throat somewhat.
When she stood up, she swayed and Edward put his arm around her. Carlisle's forehead wrinkled in concern.
"Bella, are you feeling sick, Honey? Are you sure that you are ready to go home?"
Bella nodded quickly, "P-p-please. I n-need to be w-w-w-w-ith my babies." She whispered.
Carlisle nodded, "Of course, come on. There are reporters all over the place, but we are all going out the back way. The cars are waiting."
Bella looked around her frantically, "Where i-s-s?" she began but Carlisle patted her back as he steered them towards the end of the hall where Anderson, Brian and one of Emmett's other men were waiting for them.
"The children are safe, Bella. They are with the family downstairs."
She tripped on the second step and Edward picked her up bridal style and held her tightly against him as they continued down the stairs.
The double doors at the bottom were opened and Bella saw Carlisle's Mercedes outside.
The rain was still falling steadily and Anderson snapped open an umbrella before Edward put Bella into the back of the car before he got in behind her.
Anderson got into the driver's seat and Carlisle climbed into the front passenger seat. Bella watched as Brian and the other man climbed into a black SUV. She could see Jasper's car behind them and another black SUV behind that.
A police car was at the back of the convoy with one in the front.
Anderson spoke into a radio and then they were pulling away.
Bella clutched at Edward's arm, when he looked down at her he knew what was worrying her.
"Anderson, where are the children?" He asked.
Anderson didn't take his eyes off the road, "Um, Emmett and Rosalie have Nicholas with them in Alice's car and Jasper and Alice have the twins with them in Jasper's car."
His eyes met Bella's in the rearview mirror, "Don't worry, Bella, they are quite safe, I promise you, nothing is going to happen."
Bella wanted to believe him, and she was about to answer when she looked up as they passed through the gates of the small hospital and she saw a sea of people – reporters, photographers, TV crews crowing around the entrance.
"FUCKING LEACHES! JUST LEAVE US THE FUCK ALONE!" Edward screamed out as they were almost blinded by flashing lights.
He pushed Bella down so that her head was resting on his lap and he curled around her trembling body.
"It's okay, Baby Girl, I've got you. I'm here Isabella. Don't be afraid, we are safe now. You are safe now. Nothing is going to happen to you, my Love, I promise."
Bella pushed her head into his thigh and squeezed her eyes closed tightly as he stroked her tangled hair to try and calm her down.
After what seemed like an eternity, Bella felt the car turn onto a dirt road.
"It's okay, Love, you can sit up now, we are safe now." Edward whispered into her hair.
Bella took a deep breath and she sat up.
She frowned as she looked around.
They were just pulling around the side of Cullen Crest.
She quickly looked at Edward but Carlisle interrupted them, "There is more space here Bella. You and Edward need to have the family around right now,"
Bella bit her lip and winced, like the rest of her body, her lips felt raw and tender.
"Okay." she whispered.
Carlisle nodded at the side door, "Edward, why don't you take Bella upstairs. Mom said that she was going to have a bath ready for the two of you. Bella, I don't want you to worry about anything right now, Irene and Jessica are here as well and Mom and I are going to get the babies settled."
They don't want me near the children. They think that I am going to hurt them further…
Edward leaned forward and scooped Bella into his arms and carried her inside.
He didn't stop until they were in their on-suite bathroom. Esme had filled the oversized tub with fragrant water. Edward put Bella down onto a bench.
He knelt before her and began to undo her muddy, wet sneakers.
Bella stared down at his bowed head.
"I- I- I'm – I'm so very sorry, Edward," she whispered.
Edward shook his head as he removed her shoes and peeled off her socks. Without looked at her, he cupped her hips and she stood up so that he could take off her soggy jeans and panties.
At long last, Edward stood up and he carfully removed the foam collar from around her neck before he reached down to pull her shirt up over her torso and her head, his dark green eyes seared into her fragile gaze. Bella's eyes had never reminded him more of a frightened deer.
He could see how scared she was that he was going to lash out at her, and the mere thought of doing anything close to that scared and sickened him.
Without even looking at what his hands were doing, he flicked the front clasp of her bra and all the while his eyes stared at her with an intensity that frightened her.
She felt as if he was staring into her very soul.
Tears trickled down her cheeks as her fear began to get the better of her.
She opened her mouth but Edward's fingers gently covered her lips, silencing her words.
"Don't ever, and I mean ever, apologize to me for saving yourself and our children, do you understand me? Jesus Bella, when Anderson came to get me, I thought that my heart was going to stop! You are the bravest, smartest, most courageous, incorrigible woman I have ever met, and I am so fucking grateful that you came into my life! I love you more than I ever thought possible, but more than that – I. cannot and will not. Live. Without. You. You, Isabella Marie Swan Cullen are the most important person in my life. You. You are it for me." Edward spoke with an intensity that Bella had never heard before. His gaze scorched her, his words broke through the wall that she had begun building around her heart.
Without saying another word, Edward nodded towards the bath. Bella stepped into the deliciously warm water carefully rolling her shoulders and neck.
That felt so good. She felt Edward get into the tub behind her and it was only when her back with flush with his chest that Bella realized just how cold they both were.
Edward leaned back against the backrest of the old-fashioned double bathtub. He closed his eyes as Bella leaned back against him, with her head resting in the crook of his neck.
Soon they had both warmed up and Bella had stopped shaking. She scooted forward and began to dip her head under the water when Edward stopped her, "Wait, Love, you can't wet your bandage."
"Come on, let's wash and get out and then I will shampoo your hair for you. Are you warmer now?"
Edward washed her as if she was made of crystal. Once she was clean, Edward got out and handed her an oversized bath sheet. He urged her to put on a robe while he jumped into the shower and hurriedly washed himself and his own hair before he set up the bathroom sink for Bella.
He pulled a towel around his hips before he made Bella sit on the small bench and she leaned forward, instead of backwards, so that she would not put any strain on her neck.
He used a small jug and took his time to gently wash and condition Bella's hair and for the first time, Edward was thankful that her hair was shorter than before.
When they were finished, Edward dried Bella's hair and they both found flannel sleep pants and thermal long sleeved tops on their bed, with two pairs of socks, a pink pair for Bella to match her pink sleep pants and a dark blue pair that matched the dark blue and green chambrey pants.
There was a knock at the door and Esme brought in a pot of tea with honey and milk, a flask of hot chocolate and a platter of sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
Edward was busy drying Bella's hair gently between his fingers, Esme smiled as she looked at her middle son and his wife. They looked much better than they had before.
In fact, everyone did. Esme had insisted on everyone taking showers and changing into warm clothing before she had put trays of sandwiches, hot chocolate and tea in each room. When Esme had last checked, each couple was either sleeping or cuddling together.
They had all realized just how fragile life was that day.
She and Carlisle had showered together, clinging to each other, supporting each other as they broke down at the thought that they could have lost not one but four precious children that day.
Once they had composed themselves and Carlisle was once again the loving and calm patriarch and Esme was dressed similarly to the rest of the family in sleep pants, top and socks and she had a gentle smile pasted onto her face, they had split up so that Carlisle could check on their grandchildren, while Esme went to see Edward and Bella.
Esme put the tray onto the small round table next to the large balcony window and turned around.
"Are you feeling better?"
Bella nodded, while Edward smiled at his mother, "Much better, thanks Mom. How are the kids?"
Esme smiled, "Well, it seems that nothing upsets the twins appetite and they 'inhaled' their lunches and as soon as they had their bottles and were changed, they settled immediately. I gave baby Nic a bath before I fed some of the milk that you had pumped and stored in your freezer? Terri and Shelley brought some supplies for you. Anyway he guzzled his milk down and took his paci and was out like a light!"
Bella smiled slightly, but it didn't quite reach her eyes, "Thanks so much for having us here."
Esme shook her head, "Don't be silly, Sweetheart. Of course I want my children under my roof, especially now. Why don't you have some tea or hot chocolate and then try and rest a bit. There are enough of us to take care of the children but Carlisle says that the analgesic that they were given will let them sleep for a while. Come down when you are ready."
Edward thanked his mother quietly and she left the room.
Bella's eyes darted to the door that led into the children's nursery. She licked her lips nervously, "Do you, um, do you think that I could see them?" she whispered. Her eyes filled with tears and she dashed them away quickly as her eyes fell to the floor.
Edward's hands dropped to Bella's shoulders and he waited until her red rimmed eyes rose to meet his.
Bella was surprised to see that his eyes were dark and stormy, belying the gentle touch of his hands, "Isabella, you are making me mad. Of course you can see them! They are our children and there is no reason for you to be so damn passive!"
He got up and held out his hand which Bella took quickly. They crossed the room and opened one of the double doors. Bella's eyes adjusted to the muted light in the room. Edward tugged on her hand a little and he led the way across the room to where Nicholas was fast asleep in his cot. Bella could feel silent tears run down her face as she looked at the baby sleeping peacefully. His lips were pouty and red from sucking his pacifier and Bella smiled as his tongue made soft suckling noises. His hair was the same color as hers. But when he opened his eyes, there was no doubt whose son he was. His eyes were already turning the bright shade of green, just like his daddy and his smile was all Edward.
Bella felt Edward's arms close around her waist and he put his lips close to her ear, "He is fine, Baby Girl." He pressed a soft kiss to the side of her neck.
Bella nodded and turned around. At the other side of the room, Esme had changed the twin's cots into toddler beds and Bella walked over to where Alexis and Jackson were huddled under the 'Winnie the Pooh' characters of their duvet covers.
Once she was sure that they were resting peacefully, Bella allowed Edward to lead her back to the bedroom.
He poured her a cup of tea and afterwards, he pulled her into his arms until she drifted to sleep.
When Nicholas woke up, Edward fetched him and after a diaper change, he put him into their bed. Bella woke up and for the first time since the accident, she smiled when she met the drooling smile of her son.
Soon afterwards the twins woke up and they too joined Edward and Bella in the giant bed. Bella teared up a little when she first saw Alexis' swollen lip, but she managed to stop herself when she caught Edward's frown.
The family made their way downstairs, with Edward carrying Nicholas and Alexis while Bella held Jackson's hand as he attempted to maneuver the stairs by himself.
The kitchen was a hive of activity. Esme, Kate and Jessica were at the stove, busy preparing dinner, while Alice and Rosalie were in various stages of feeding their brood.
They all turned around when Bella and Edward walked in.
Edward frowned at them for gawking at Bella and the babies but he realized that they were just as concerned as he was and they just didn't know what to say.
"Mom, do you have some dinner for these two hungry monkeys?" Edward said in a falsely cheerful tone.
Joshua, Jared and Tiffany laughed at their uncle's words, while Jackson and Alexis made 'monkey' sounds with their father and the tension in the room was broken.
"Of course! Put the 'monkeys' in their seats and I will bring dinner." Esme said.
"No mo-keees, Nana! Lexy!" Alexis said with a giggle, pointing to herself. Each laugh seemed to close the hole that Bella had felt in her chest.
Edward put Nicholas into his high chair. Bella wondered where their bags were. She always kept an emergency supply of his porrage in his bag.
Alice looked up and smiled at her, "There is porridge in the pantry, Twister. Mom keeps her own supply now."
Bella smiled gratefully and she moved over to the large room adjoining the large kitchen. As she reached for the box, she felt Edward's hands on her hips, "Are you okay?"
Bella relaxed and let her body press back against his chest for a moment, "Getting better every minute, Love."
Bella realized that Edward was tense when she felt him relax behind her, "Good. That's good, Baby. Will you be okay alone? I want to go and talk to Dad."
Bella pulled the box off the shelf and turned so that she was chest to chest with her husband. She looked up at him and saw the worry lines etched into his forehead.
With a sigh Bella reached up and stroked the lines away before she looked at Edward, "We won't be alone, Love. Thank you for taking care of us."
Edward's hand tightened on her hips marginally, as his mask fell for a moment and Bella saw the vulnerability behind the brave front that he had put on all day, "Nothing is more important to me than you and our children, Isabella."
Nicholas' shout of impatience brought them out of their bubble and Bella was blushing as she walked back into the kitchen.
This time her sisters didn't hide their suggestive looks or their sniggers, "Can't you two stop for a second? You are impossible!" Rosalie snorted.
Bella was blushing as Edward looked at her and winked, "Please! Could you blame me?" he said with a laugh as he ducked out of the room.
Bella quickly prepared Nicholas' porridge and she sat down to feed him.
After the children had eaten, everyone made their way down to the games room, which after many years had been turned back into a children's playroom. Bella had not noticed the small white 'picket' fence in the room before that effectively divided it into two areas.
The far side was the children's indoor play area and like the outside, it was filled with play equipment that was age appropriate for everyone.
There was a ball pool as well as small tables and chairs and one wall was a blackboard.
There were large soft toys, building blocks, dolls, large cars, trucks as well as a toddler friendly train set.
The entire area was covered in soft rubber interlocking flooring that was soft for bottoms and knees.
There where oversized cushions and small beanbags and a small sleeping area in a secluded part of the room. The walls had been painted with a 'garden scene'. The bottom of the room was green, with blades of grass and wild flowers reaching up towards the blue sky. Giant dragon flies, butterflies and lady bugs flitted around the room, while puffy white clouds floated past.
The adult side of the room had been modified slightly and the pool table was now the main feature in the room, while the fooz-ball table and the ping-pong tables had been taken upstairs into one of the main floor rooms that also held the dartboard.
Edward found his father, brothers, his great uncles and Garret downstairs once he left the kitchen. He was relieved to see that Bella was acting more like herself as she realized that the children were for all intents and purposes none the worse for wear.
When he got downstairs, Emmett handed him a glass of amber liquid and the bourbon burned in a welcome way.
He walked outside onto the covered deck and he wasted no time in lighting a cigarette.
He felt someone touch his shoulder and saw that they had all joined him outside.
The men stared at each other in silence. It was almost as if they were too afraid to say what their hearts and minds were screaming.
They could have lost Bella. They could have lost the babies. They could have lost one of their own.
Edward felt his throat close up as he looked from one somber face to the next. He took a shaky drag of his cigarette and hastily took a large sip of his drink.
Finally, Carlisle spoke up, "Edward, the police need to talk to Bella."
Edward straightened up and he glared at his father, but before he could talk, Carlisle held his hand up, "Now, before you say anything, just hear me out."
With a large gulp, the drink was finished and Edward took another drag on his cigarette before he nodded, "Okay."
"Gianni Salvatore, from Piccola Italia phoned me when he heard what had happened. That's where Bella was today. He told me that she was being harassed by some cameramen when she and the children arrived and that they had closed the shop while she was there. He had also said that he escorted her to her car and that there were two cars with paparazzi in them that were 'waiting' for Bella to drive away. He feels terrible that he wasn't able to stop them. He has already been to the police station and he has given them his statement." Carlisle said quietly.
Edward was furious. What the fuck! They had moved out of the city so that they would be safe and this happens!
"FUCK!" Edward shouted in frustration.
Surprisingly it was Uncle Nicholas who stepped forward and put his hand on Edward's shoulder, "You can rant and rave all you want now, my child, but when that woman and those children come into the room, you had better be in control of yourself."
Nicholas looked around the group of men, "I know it's natural to assume that you are safe when you are young. Now you know that that is just an illusion. It doesn't matter how much money we have, or how good looking we are or how famous we are. The fact is that we are all vulnerable. Life is short and you need to make every day count. Have no regrets!"
Nobody spoke until Emmett spoke up, "Yeah well, that's all fine and everything, but I say we need to kick some serious ass! These fuckers can't think that it's okay to mess with us! They need to know that we will fucking end them if they try and harm one of our women or children again! Fuck 'em!"
Ernest grinned at him, "That's my boy! Fuck 'em! Let's make them bleed!"
Edward stared at his great uncle and before he knew it he was laughing and then they all were bending over double laughter as they pictured Ernest taking on the world. The laughter helped to lighten the mood considerably.
Once the laughter had died down, and they were all back in the warmth of the den with their drinks replenished, Edward looked at Emmett, "What are we going to do?"
Emmett pursed his lips, "First of all, you are going to make sure that Bella co-operates with the police and that they throw the book at these assholes! Then we are going to put electrified fencing around the property with razor wire on the top of it and lastly and this is the part that the girls are not going to like, but no-one, and I mean no-one goes out without someone with them. Everyone, including us guys has tracking devices fitted into our vehicles, and the trackers are turned on automatically each time you turn your car on. That is what we can do from our side. That panic button helped us to locate Bella today so a panic alarm is fitted to every car that we own."
Everyone nodded. Emmett was the expert on security and he knew what he was talking about.
"Do you know who is in charge of the investigation? I'll give them a call and they can come in tomorrow."
Carlisle shook his head as he pulled a card from his pocket, "Sherriff Scott is sending a Detective Pears and his partner Detective Rigby around tonight at eight o'clock sharp. They need Bella's statement so that they can take action before the twenty four hours are up."
Sherriff Scott had been the Sherriff of St. Helena for twenty years and he knew the family well. It was he who had caught Alice in numerous pranks. It was he who had brought Edward and Emmett home when they had broken the church window and had been caught driving drunk.
Edward nodded, "I hope that Bella's up to it."
"Up to what?"
They all turned quickly to find Bella coming down the stairs with Nicholas in her arms.
Edward got up and he took Nicholas from her and he kissed his son's plump cheek. He was rewarded with a giggle.
As he was about to explain the other women hollered downstairs and the men all jumped up to help bring the kids come down to the playroom.
Once everyone was settled Edward quietly told Bella what Carlisle had said.
Bella paled slightly, but she nodded, "Okay, but what about your luncheon tomorrow?"
Edward shook his head, "I already spoke to Aro, who put out a statement, and he contacted the people from Pebble. I don't want you to worry about that now."
The children were played with, bathed and put to bed before everyone sat down to dinner. Bella was surprised that no one had asked her what had happened but when Emmett began to ask a question after dinner, Edward and Carlisle shut him up quickly.
"No, it's okay, of course you want to know what happened," Bella said quietly.
"Why don't we wait until…" just then the doorbell rang, interrupting whatever Carlisle was about to say.
The family moved into the sitting room as Carlisle led the two detectives into the room, "This is my daughter-in-law Isabella Cullen."
Bella stood up and shook hands with the middle aged woman and her partner who seemed to be a few years younger than she.
"Mrs. Cullen, we are sorry to disrupt your evening but we need to speak with you please." The man, Detective Pears said.
"Can, um, can we talk here? I want my family with me." She said quietly.
She could see that they were about to protest so she added, "None of them were with me".
The two detectives looked at each other for a moment, but then they remembered what Sherriff Scott had told them, "Don't piss the Cullen's off. This family has been through enough today – so just go in and talk to her. As it is we are going to have a shit-storm when the media descend – I want the family left alone! It is our duty to protect the inhabitants of this town and that means that no-one gets onto Cullen property without their permission!"
The detectives nodded and Detective Pears smiled at her, "Of course, may we sit down?"
Carlisle introduced them to the rest of the family, minus the uncles who both had dates that evening and Garrett and Kate, who had gone home earlier.
Norma Rigby struggled to keep her face impassive and impartial. She had never been in a room with so many beautiful looking men before! She thought of her own husband, Joe, with his beer belly and receding hairline and she could help but feel a stab of envy – these women would never have those problems with their husbands!
Detective Rigby cleared her throat, "Mrs. Cullen, we have some of the details of today's events but we need you to tell us in your own words everything that you remember about today? Let's begin before you left home. When did you decide to go out today?"
Bella's hands were clasped tightly in her lap and she could feel her anxiety levels rise sharply. Suddenly Edward put his hand on her leg, just above her knee and just his touch calmed her.
"It was about eleven o'clock this morning. We had run out of canned tomato and seeing as the twins and Nicholas were awake, I decided that an outing would do us all some good. I could see that it was going to rain and I put our coats on."
Bella forced her mind away from the image of Alexis' coat with blood on it and shook her head to clear it.
"I sent Edward a text and then we left. We got to the gates and as soon as I pulled onto the road, these two cars pulled out behind me."
Bella's breathing hitched and she felt Edward's hand on her back, "You are doing so well, Love." He murmured.
Bella took a deep breath and she began to recount her journey into town. She was shocked when the detectives told her that Gianni and Saska had corroborated her story. She took a drink of water and it was only when she got to where her car had clipped the overturned car that the tears began to descend down her cheeks. When she couldn't go on, Edward insisted that they take a break and he wasn't surprised to see that Esme, Alice and Rosalie were all in tears.
Emmett and Rosalie went to check on all of the children, while Alice and Jasper took a walk. Esme and Carlisle went to make a pot of coffee and tea and Edward led Bella into Carlisle's study.
Once there, he pulled her into his arms as she cried as if her heart was breaking.
When she was finished, he washed her face and kissed her tenderly, "Are you feeling better, now?"
Bella shrugged, "I know that this wasn't my fault, but I can't help wishing that I had listened to you about taking someone with me…"
Edward shook his head, "You can't think like that, Baby Girl. Do you think that you can go back and finish this?"
Bella nodded, "Okay."
Once they had settled back inside again, Bella quickly finished her story and then Detective Pears spoke up, "There were five men in the two cars. They were very lucky, but none of them were seriously injured at all. A couple of fractured ribs and a broken collar bone. We are charging the two drivers with wreckless endangerment and criminal neglegance and we are charging all five of the men with stalking and harassment of a private individual, with intent to do grievous bodily harm."
"We will need you to come down to the station, so that we can file a restraining order against these five individuals. If they persist in this behavior, we will arrest them again and then the charge will be violation of a court order and instead of a fine, the sentence will be time in jail."
Edward shook his head, "So my family could have been killed today and these, these assholes are going to get a fucking slap on the wrist?" he spat out.
"Edward!" Esme admonished him, when inside she was agreeing with him.
"No Mom, what Edward's saying is true! This is a joke! Isn't there anything else we can do?" Emmett asked.
Detective Pears looked at the two men, "Believe me, we are going to do our best to make sure that nothing like this ever happens again, but you need to understand –" he was interrupted as Jasper and Edward began to protest.
Detective Rigby stood up and spoke above the noise, "Call your lawyer, Mr. Cullen. Sue the individuals and if possible the newspapers that they were representing. Ask for an amount so outrageous that the paparazzi will think twice before they endanger someone else's life or their children."
Everyone stared at the woman and then they looked at each other, "Can we?" Bella asked.
Pears looked at his partner and then Bella, "Yes, you can. We are not attorneys, but you can sue."
Shortly after that the two police people left.
Bella was sore and tired and after she had allowed Carlisle to examine her neck and change the dressing on her head, Bella made her way upstairs.
She sat in the rocking chair in the nursery for a while, just watching the children sleep before she climbed into the bed and fell asleep.
The men gathered in Carlisle's study as he put a call through to Jeremiah Jenks. As soon as he explained the situation, Jeremiah promised to get onto the case immediately.
Two weeks later the internet and the newspapers were abuzz again with news of the Cullen's. In the days following Bella's accident, the family had been shocked but very pleased at the public outcry and the amount of support that they had received.
Television talk shows were clamoring for an interview with her and although there were press at the bottom of their driveway, Bella and the children were treated with respect by the media.
Mother's groups spoke out about the travesty of the treatment that she had received from the media and several people that Edward had worked with over the years spoke out publically about the treatment of famous personalities at the hands of the press.
The second week after the incident it was reported that Isabella and Edward Cullen were suing the five individuals, for a total of one hundred million dollars – twenty million dollars each. What made it news worthy was the fact that Bella Cullen gave an interview on the steps of the small county courthouse, where she stated that the money that they received would be used to help families of victims of driving negligence and reckless endangerment.
Bella's car had been repaired seeing as other than a few dents; the SUV had lived up to the money that Edward had spent on it.
Bella no longer drove alone. If she or Alice needed to go out, they were either driven or followed by a security detail. Bella didn't like it but she didn't fight it either.
Neither the twins nor Nicholas showed any repercussions from the accident and as the days wore on, Bella's anxiety faded as well.
She had nightmares for the first week but after talking with Paul and Edward, her anxiety lessened.
The Oscars were looming and Alice had Bella try on several outfits for the event. Edward was wearing an Oscar del la Renta tuxedo and in the end Bella chose a black sequined and beaded halter neck dress, designed by Roberto Cavalli, which hugged her like a glove.
Carlisle and Esme were looking after the children and Edward decided to book into their favorite hotel, the Chateaux Marmont for a couple of nights. He tried to get Bella to stay away for longer, but ever since the accident, she had become afraid to leave the children for too long.
She had been to see Paul a few times and talking with him had certainly helped to ease the overwhelming fear that would threaten to cripple her at times.
Rosalie and Emmett invited the family to their house for a Valentine's Day dinner. Bella had watched Rosalie over dinner and she was sure that there was something wrong. Rosalie's make up was impeccable as always, but her eyes looked a little worn out.
At the end of dinner, Emmett stood up and made a toast to all of the beautiful women at the table, before he raised his glass to his wife, "And to my exceptional wife, Rosalie, who is pregnant with our third child, and who couldn't have made me happier if she tried!"
There was a moment's shocked silence before the squealing began.
The best news was that Rosalie was already almost sixteen weeks pregnant and her morning sickness had been greatly reduced by a strict diet and some new medication.
Everyone knew that Rosalie and Emmett were hoping for a girl but they would be thrilled with a boy as well and so Bella knew that Rose was genuinely happy when she reported to everyone that she was once again carrying another baby boy.
The day before the Oscars, Edward and Bella flew to Los Angeles in the morning. Edward had booked them into the same cottage that they had stayed at when they got engaged. Edward had ordered spa treatments for them and after an afternoon of making love, they attended a Vogue pre Oscar's cocktail party, before they had dinner with Dana and her partner in their stunning Hollywood mansion.
Dana laughed at Bella's gob-smacked reaction to the imposing modern mansion, "Please Bella, you act like you've never seen anything like this before," Dana said as she waved her hand around the stark white marble entrance hall.
Bella shook her head, "I haven't! This is what I always imagined a movie star to live like!"
Dana laughed again, "Well close your mouth and come into the kitchen, I need to see what Cook has made!"
The four of them chatted like old friends and by the time that they were laying in bed, Bella was actually feeling excited about the Awards the next day. She and Dana had appointments to have their hair and makeup done. Because Edward had been nominated for Awards, they were not able to share a limousine and he and Bella were given a iron-clad schedule that they had to stick to.
Bella was up and out the chalet by seven the next morning, while Edward met with Aro and a few executives. He had to do a couple of interviews, that he had missed the previous month and it was close to two in the afternoon before they both made it back to the room.
Although the studio had offered Edward additional security, he had declined in favor of security provided by Emmett's firm. Brian and Anderson were with them and they also had a professional driver for the occasion.
Bella almost gasped when Edward walked out of the bedroom in his tuxedo. He was trying to put his wedding present cufflinks in and as always he was battling.
"Baby, please can you … fuck Bella… you look, um amazing." Edward stopped a the top of the stairs and for the first time he looked down the winding steps to see Bella standinat the bottom.
Her hair was loose and fell over one shoulder. One bare shoulder.
Fuck me, it's going to be a long night, Edward thought as he licked his lips subconsciously.
Bella smiled, "Sooo, you like it?"
Edward shook his head at her and let out a growl as he lightly ran down the stairs, "Like it? Please Baby, I am going to have to fight off every man over the age of ten and under a hundred! You are far to sexy for words Mrs. Cullen," he leaned forward and Bella pushed him away, "Don't even think about it, Cullen! Alice would kill you and so would I! I have been poked and prodded for hours to look like this, so don't ruin the look!"
Edward shook his head and laughed, "There is my little wild kitten! Come on, let's get this over with!"
Anderson and Brian were dressed in tuxedos and both looked very handsome as they waited next to the limo.
There was a bottle of champagne chilling in an ice bucket and Edward poured them each a glass, before he offered Bella some strawberries from a bowl.
Bella chuckled when she saw the other snacks. There was sliced fruit and fresh vegetables, tiny sandwiches and a bowl of mints.
Edward grinned at her, "What? It takes forever to get there and we are going to be starving by the time the show is over, so I asked Aro to take care of some snacks for us."
Two hours later they were two cars away from the entrance to the Chinese Theatre. The screams and cheers from the crowds was deafening and Bella checked her make up for the hundredth time.
She looked over at Edward and saw that he was looking a little more pale than normal.
"Are you okay, Love?" She asked quietly as she put her hand on his knee.
Edward's slightly sweaty palm covered her hand and he looked at her with a nervous smile, "I've been nominated for two Academy Awards and I want to throw up!"
Suddenly Bella was calm. Her husband needed her to get him through this.
She smiled teasingly at him, "You are going to be fine! You told me before we left home that 'win, lose or draw' this doesn't change anything, so let's go in there and have some fun and I want you to remember that I love you, Edward and I am proud of you, no matter what."
Just then the snail pace of the limousine stopped and Anderson lowered the window and turned around in his seat, "We are here. You two stay put and let me open the door, okay?"
Edward shook his head slightly and ran his hands down his trousers.
"Showtime!" Edward said as Anderson opened the door.
And then Edward was completely calm. He stepped out of the Limousine with a grin and a wave as the roar of the crowd rose to ear shattering proportions.
He turned and held out his hand to Bella. She slid out carefully and clasped his hand tightly in her. Edward pulled her against his chest and lowered his mouth to her ear, "Stay close!"
Bella looked up at him and smiled, "Always!"
They were led down the red carpet by the publicity people. Anderson and Brian kept a close eye on the crowd and the couple. The cameras were blinding and it seemed as if hundreds of people were screaming his and Bella's name.
They smiled, waved and made a few comments to the many television channels there. Edward got tired of telling people 'who' he was wearing and his mouth felt numb from smiling so broadly.
They reached Ryan Seacrest and he stopped them to chat. Bella blushed delightfully when he complimented her on her gown and Edward couldn't help but puff up with pride as he slipped his arm around her tiny waist.
Edward spoke briefly about being nominated for two Oscars and he smiled and said how humbled he was to be nominated in the same category as some musical greats.
He knew that it was trite but it was true.
They reached the inside of the theatre and they both let out a collective sigh of relief which made them chuckle.
Edward was his usual congenial self and he led Bella around the room, stopping to chat to various people.
Bella smiled when she saw the young couple from the vampire movies that she, Rosalie and Alice loved so much.
The young actress was holding the hand of her handsome co-star and Bella stopped to have a few words with her, before they were called to take their seats.
Edward and Bella were sitting on the isle in the third row, and Bella gasped when she realized that they were sitting next to one of her favorite male actors and his wife.
They introduced themselves as if they were 'regular' people and the handsome actor asked her if she had recovered from her 'ordeal'. He commended her and Edward for 'having the balls to stick one to the press!'
Edward chuckled silently as he felt Bella almost vibrate out of her seat. He had presented at the Oscars a couple of times before but this time it was different, this time the spotlight would be on him for a different reason.
The show began and Edward and Bella relaxed as the host and hostess kept them entertained and amused.
The film was up for six awards in total, and when they won the first award for Best Animated Picture, Bella could feel her excitement and anxiety levels rise.
The next few categories flew by and then it was time for the first of the five songs that had been nominated for Best Original Song to be performed.
Bella felt Edward's hand tighten on her momentarily when he was tapped on the shoulder a while later. He was performing his nomination in that category next.
"I love you." Bella whispered as he brushed his lips against her knuckles.
He winked and stood up.
Bella could feel her knees trembling as she waited impatiently for Edward's song to be called.
The beautiful woman on the stage smiled, "…And now, this is the third song which has been nominated in the Best Original Song category, Edward Cullen and the Junior Philharmonic Orchestra of California performing 'Possums Lullaby'."
Bella could feel tears prick her eyes as Edward walked onto the stage and bowed before he took his seat at the gleaming black grand piano.
A hand held out a stark white handkerchief and Bella looked up to see the handsome actor smiling at her ruefully, "Don't want to spoil your make-up." He whispered.
Bella clutched the cloth in her fingers and the first strains of the breathtaking and heart wrenching melody began.
She watched the face that she knew so well, that she dreamed about at night as his startling green eyes searched for hers in the darkened theatre.
Even though he could not see her, Bella smiled at him.
Her heart felt as if it would burst from the overwhelming sense of pride and love and adoration that Bella felt at that moment.
Edward had never looked more handsome.
And he's mine! Bella thought in awe. He is mine.
When the last strains of the music died, the applause was deafening.
Bella wiped the tears off her cheeks and she smiled as several people around her leaned in to tell her how great the piece of music was.
Edward joined her shortly afterwards and Bella almost climbed into his lap!
She wanted to attack him, throw him to the floor and have her way with him.
Edward smiled down at her in the semi darkness and leaned close to her ear, "Stop looking at me like that, unless you want me to rip that dress off you right here!"
The next awards went by and then it was time for the music awards. Bella thought that her hand would break when it came time for the Best Original Score to be announced.
Bella heard Edward's name and then the lights were shining on them and Bella squealed when Edward's name was read at the winner. She leaned forward and kissed him, "Showtime!" she said.
Edward was in shock. He had won an Academy fucking Award! He had won!
He walked up the steps onto the stage, barely registering the comments and congratulations around him.
He stood staring blindly into the crowd and in his mind he saw the faces of his family. Then his eyes met the teary eyes of his wife and it seemed like the moment froze.
"I would like to thank the members of the Academy. I am honored to receive this award, but it actually belongs to my Bella, my family, Baby Nicholas, and especially my own possums. Thank you." Edward smiled at Bella and followed the presenters off the stage.
When Edward was awarded the second award just minutes later, his 'speech was even shorter as he thanked the studio for giving him the opportunity to stretch his talents.
The rest of the night passed in a blur and when the show was over, 'Of Butterflies and Kings' won five out of the six awards that they were nominated for and everyone was on top of the world.
Edward and Bella had been invited to nine after-parties. They ended up going to two before Edward had pulled Bella into the Limousine and they had headed back to the hotel, where a wonderful meal had been prepared for them.
They sat outside on the veranda, where tiki lamps had been lit; Bella kicked her shoes off, Edward pulled off his bowtie, his jacket, and he kicked off his socks and shoes and they sat in their evening clothes as they fed each other, with sharing kisses and loving touches.
As the sun came up over Los Angeles, Edward pulled Bella's warm, naked body against his as he covered them with the duvet and closed his eyes.
The following days were exciting and dreamlike as one television station after the next clamored for interviews and live performances. Afterwards he had to watch the show to see what he had said and who had presented his 'Oscars' to him.
They eventually got home three days later and Edward was subjected to endless teasing from his siblings. Bella and Edward were happy when life settled down into an easy routine.
As March rolled into April, Bella and Edward took the children to Forks to visit Sue and Charlie.
They spent a week with them and the children were spoilt rotten by Grumpy and Granny Sue. What Bella loved about Forks was that when she met her high school principal, he still smiled at her and called her 'little Bella Swan' and he called Edward, 'her young man', which Edward loved and that afternoon, when Grumpy and Granny took the children to visit 'Grumpy Billy', Edward and Bella had played student and teacher in their bedroom. It was fun and the slightly forbidden aspect of playing in her childhood home had added to the enjoyment.
That night when Charlie had asked Bella why there was a ruler on the staircase, Sue had burst out laughing at Bella's mortified expression. Charlie reminded Edward that his guns might be locked in the gun safe, but they were 'cocked and loaded'.
Bella and Edward had found it next to impossible to keep up with their D/s schedule and as the months had progressed after New Year, it had become apparent that they had neither the time nor the energy to devote hours of planning and energy to their favorite pastime.
Alone time was something of a luxury and they decided that it was more important to spend time together as a couple and so playtime became a luxury item – nice to have but not necessary.
When they did find the time, every six weeks or so, it was fulfilling.
Bella closed the latch on the last suite case and looked around. She could not believe that they were leaving for Italy the following day. This time, Maggie and Reggie would be going with them and Maggie would be on hand to help when Bella left on her tour.
The family decided to hire a private jet to take them to Lake Como as it would be easier on all of them, they were travelling with seven children all of whom were under the age of three. Joshua was going to have his third birthday party in Italy along with the twins who were turning two.
The trip was eventful, noisy and Carlisle stated that they were lucky that he didn't have a problem with alcohol as travelling with seven toddlers was enough to send any man to the closest bar.
Rosalie's pregnancy was progressing well and she had obtained permission from her doctors to travel to Italy for the summer. Esme laughed and said that at the rate they were going, she would have as many Italian grandchildren as American ones.
Emmett was only flying out to join Rosalie at the end of the month as he was in the middle of wrapping up an important business deal.
Bella looked around the darkened cabin. The idea to fly at night had been a clever one as most of the children were fast asleep for most of the flight. She leaned back and curled her feet up to the side as she snuggled against Edward's chest.
It felt like it had taken them forever to get to this place, but finally it seemed as if everything was falling into place.
Bella's accident had affected them all in various ways and after talking with Carlisle and Esme, Emmett and Rosalie had decided to started the tide of change, by deciding to move to Cullen Crest permanently, where Emmett would begin to take over the reins of the Winery, while Rosalie opened up an interior design store.
Emmett had offered Anderson and Brian shares in his company and they had accepted.
Brain was going to run the day to day operation from an office that they were setting up in Rutherford, while Emmett was going to begin pulling back from his sixteen to eighteen hour days.
By the end of the summer, Emmett would be a more or less silent partner in Cullen Security Inc.
Once that decision had been made, Carlisle had announced his intention to retire from the hospital. His retirement would go into full effect from the first day of September.
He and Esme would be leaving shortly afterwards for a three month tour of South America, Europe and the far East, before they came home. While they were gone, their new home would be built on the far side of Cullen Crest.
At first Emmett had protested, but his parents had been adamant that on one condition, that all holidays and traditions of Cullen Crest would be upheld and honored, Esme was ready to move into a 'new' home with Carlisle.
Rosalie had drawn up the plans and the foundations were soon to be laid on the eclectic stone and cedar wood house.
Winning the Academy Awards had meant a flood of offers from all over the world for Edward and Jasper. They had a waiting list of bands wanting to record in their studios and Edward had also received numerous offers to compose original scores for upcoming films.
He had one bag packed that just held CD's, scripts, and offers. Jasper was proving to be a genius at running the recording studio and they had recently made plans to take on a studio manager to assist them as they finalized plans to open their second studio.
After just three days it was time for Bella to leave. She tearfully kissed and hugged everyone goodbye as her backpack was packed along with her old bag of new art supplies, an easel and a new, leather bound drawing book that Edward had given her the night before as she cried in his arms.
Edward stood with his legs folded at the ankles and his arms folded across his chest as he watched Bella hug and kiss everyone. She was trying to smile at the children, who showed very little interest in her leaving and to be honest they were having more fun chasing each other in the morning sunshine.
At last Bella stood in front of him. Edward smiled. She looked sixteen Edward thought to himself. Bella was wearing a little blue sundress with spaghetti straps over her shoulders and a pair of Espredrille sandals. She was carrying a wide brimmed straw hat in her hands and her hair was French braided and hung down her back.
Edward put his hands on her hips and pulled her towards him, "Now, missy, don't go flirting with the boys, okay?"
Bella giggled and her hand reached up to touch the small chocker with the Cullen crest on it. She had asked Edward to 'collar' her for her time away and after much consideration, he had agreed.
"No, Sir," she whispered as he leaned down and kissed her upturned lips gently.
"I love you, Baby girl. I want you to go and have a wonderful time. Don't worry about us. This is for you, Isabella. You deserve to indulge your passion. You have put so much of your life on hold to raise our family and now it's time for you to have some fun." He wiggled his eyebrows at her, "But not too much fun, you hear?" He said mock-sternly.
Bella laughed, "I promise!"
He stepped back and patted her bottom affectionately, "Okay, time to go, Sweetheart. I love you."
Bella smiled and opened the car door, "I love you too. I will call you later."
She climbed in and the car began to pull away. Everyone else had gone inside and Edward shaded his eyes with his hand as he watched the car reach the end of the driveway and stop.
Suddenly the door was flung open and Bella was racing back towards him. Edward opened his arms and she wrapped her arms and legs around him, with tears streaking her face.
"What is it, Baby? What's wrong?" He asked concerned.
"I can't – I can't leave you. Please don't ask me to leave you, Edward. Please."
Edward smiled as he kissed the top of her dark hair.
"Aaw Baby Girl, come on now. It's only ten days and then I promise you will be home and we will have four months together. And I will even sweeten the deal and tell you that we are going to celebrate our anniversary in a very special place this year." He pulled back and wiped her cheeks with his thumbs before he kissed her forehead, her nose and then her lips, "Now, go on!"
Bella took a shaky breath and she put her sunglasses back on.
One step and then another and then she was climbing into the car. "Let's go." She told the driver. She was tempted, but she didn't look back, because she knew if she did, that she would never leave.
Edward walked slowly into the cool house. He missed her already and he rubbed his chest as he felt the familiar ache that he got whenever they were apart.
"Bella finally leave?" Jasper grinned in amusement as Edward walked into the sitting room.
He nodded and smiled at his friend, "You all owe me fifty bucks - she only came back once!"
Esme looked up and shook her heads, "You should all be ashamed of yourselves – betting on Bella's inability to leave your sorry ass for ten days!"
Just then Carlisle, Alice and Rosalie came inside from the patio, "So, who won the pool on Bella?" Alice asked.
Jasper grinned and pointed to Edward.
Carlisle and Rosalie groaned as Alice protested, "That's not fair! They probably rigged it so that she would only come back one time!"
Carrie and Jessie looked up and laughed as they bickered back and forwards.
Bella sat in the back of the car and blew her nose. The driver cleared his throat, "Signora Cullen, we will be in Firenze in just over four hours."
Bella smiled tearfully, "Grazie molto, Mauro".
Mauro was the driver/security agent that had been hired while Bella was on her tour. Edward had wanted her to fly from Milan to Florence, but Bella wanted to see the country side again. Since Bella insisted on either travelling by bus, which was never going to be an option or being driven (Edward's only suggestion), she had agreed to have someone accompany her to Florence and to make sure that she was 'deposited' into the hands of Signor Alto Belasco, the tour-guide/tutor of the tour.
Bella shook her head and smirked as she thought about how Edward had phoned the foundation as well as the poor man at least five times to make sure that Alto knew that Bella was very married and very off the market, "Because," he stated darkly when Bella had berated him for his brash behavior, "He needs to know that you are mine and I know what these smarmy fucking Italian men are like – they can't keep their goddamn hands to themselves!"
It had not help that Bella had laughed openly at him. He had flounced out of his office and locked himself in his music room for the rest of the afternoon and if the harsh sounds coming from the piano were anything to go by, the poor Steinway was going to need a major tune up!
Edward had sulked for the afternoon and had bathed all three children by himself before he carried Nicholas, while the twins had held his hand and walked carefully down the stairs by themselves. Once in the kitchen he had set about making sure that the twins ate more than they messed, while Bella fed Nicholas who was a rambunctious seven month old, who had a smile that lit up the room and a mop of brown, unruly hair and the greenest eyes.
Bella put Nicholas in his cot while Edward read the twins a story and then they swapped and Edward sang a song to Nicholas, while Bella hummed to the twins and rubbed their backs gently until they were snoring lightly.
Bella walked downstairs and poured a couple of glasses of red wine, before she plated the Bœuf Bourguignon that she had made.
She sat at the small breakfast table that she had decorated with a couple of candles and waited. Edward walked into the room and stopped in the doorway.
"I'm an asshole." He said quietly.
Bella nodded and took a sip of her wine, "You are, but you are my asshole and I love you for your possessiveness and your overbearing protective streak."
Edward moved forward and in the seat adjacent to hers, "I'm sorry." He said and Bella looked up from her plate. She could see the apology in the depth of his eyes.
She smiled gently, "I know, but Edward, I'm a big girl now, Honey. I can use my voice and speak up. Do you honestly think that I would let some aging Italian man be inappropriate in any way with me?"
Edward sighed and shook his head, "No."
"Well then, there is nothing to worry about, Sparky, now let's eat so that I can take my wonderful husband to bed and show him just how much I love him and how much I want him to fuck my brains out."
They ended up eating dinner at two o'clock the next morning, in bed, wrapped in the sheet as they fed each other and Edward said that he was just being clumsy when he dropped a piece of meat on Bella's bare chest and then proceeded to lick and suck the tasty morsel and the juices off her body.
They were bleary eyed the next day, but neither complained.
Even the air smelt different, she thought as she opened one of the windows.
She closed her eyes and pulled her new iPod out. Edward had presented her with it that morning as he told her that he had sent it all over the country so that all of their family and friends could add a play list. Everyone had added something: Of course the first one was from Edward and he had simply entitled it 'Thinking of you'. The second playlist has surprised her – it was from Sue and Charlie and the small card that had been attached to it when it was returned to Edward said – 'For Bella, my pride and joy', because neither of them could work out how to program the words the iPod. Then there was a collection of music from Esme and Carlisle entitled, 'Songs for Bella'. Bella smiled at that. Alice and Jasper's choices were called 'Twister's Choice' and that made Bella laugh. There were song choices from Seth, Kate and Garrett and even from Harry, Bernice, Peter and Sonia, which cracked Bella up when she saw what they had called their folder – 'Songs for subby – not to get off on alone!' and the last list was from Riley and Arielle and was very aptly entitled 'Inspiration to paint by' the accompanying note had stated that Riley expected at least one show from her efforts this summer.
As the powerful black Mercedes drove through the northern Italy countryside Bella could help but smile as she felt the first twinges of excitement curling in her belly.
She was going to do nothing but paint and sightsee for the next ten days! She loved being a mother, a wife, a sister, friend, daughter, submissive, but she also loved being Bella – the artist.
In the past she had used her art as a way to escape from her terrible life, and then Edward had stormed in and had shown her how to be strong and confident, how to grow and stretch herself. His love had given her the freedom to become a submissive, to explore every aspect of her self. He encouraged her independence and he valued her opinion, even when he didn't agree with her.
Her children had given her courage and strength to believe in her abilities to love them, to nurture them, but now, now she was just Bella.
She gasped as 'Possums Lullaby' came over her headphones. Bella closed her eyes and thought back to the first time that she had heard the 'bare bones' of the song.
Their first time in Italy seemed a million years away. It seemed a lifetime ago that she had almost knocked over an American actor, running blindly through the streets of Florence. She had saved him that day and he had been saving her every since.
As the song ended Bella heard a chuckle and her breathing hitched as she realized that Edward had recorded the song 'live' for her.
"Isabella, now I know that you are probably crying as you listen to this and drive through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, but I want to tell you to dry your tears, Little Girl. I want you to take a deep breath and look around you. I want you to absorb every ounce that you possibly can over the next ten days." Bella stopped the iPod.
She pulled a pack of tissues out of her bag and blew her nose and dried her eyes. With a sigh she opened a bottle of cold water and turned the iPod on again.
"Now, one of the reasons that I wanted to give this gift to you is because you are the most selfless person that I know. For the past three years you have always been there for me and for everyone else. You are like a sun that just seems to draw people around you. We all want to be with you and to bask in your love."
Corny little sod!
Edward laughed again, "I know that sounds corny but it's true. You fill every moment of your day, by making our life a fairytale. You are a wonderful mother and your devotion to our children is tireless. Oh! By the way, talking about children, I know we said that we would look at conceiving the next round of our soccer team this year sometime, but if you want to wait and concentrate on your art, then we can wait. I know that three kids are a handful, and I can only imagine what it will be like with four or five or six…okay! Okay! Only joking, not six! Um, unless you want six…"
His laughter filled her ears.
Six, my ass!
Bella giggled and she met the amused looked of the driver in the rearview mirror.
"Your music is making you laugh?"
Bella chuckled and pressed 'stop' again, "Well, I'm actually listening to a message from my husband and he thinks that he is being funny."
Mauro nodded, "My wife says that sometimes about me."
"How many children do you have Mauro?"
Bella was shocked as the somber almost stern looking man's face dissolved into a smile that make him look a lot younger than his forty two years.
"My wife Rica and I have seven, sette children." He said proudly.
Bella's eyes almost bugged out of her head, "Seven? Wow, what ages are they?"
Mauro laughed, "Arturo, our eldest is twenty two this year and our youngest are mm, three years."
Bella gasped, "Wow! That's quite a wide range. How do you cope with seven children? I have three and sometimes I can't remember my own name."
They laughed together and then Mauro smiled at her, "The love doesn't get smaller with each child, the heart grows and gets bigger with each one. In our house there is a lot of love."
Bella's felt a sudden sting of tears as her eyes looked out at the blue, blue sky and the golden fields.
"I think that I understand, Mauro. Grazie for sharing with me." She said.
Mauro smiled and shrugged, "Prego". Don't mention it.
Bella pressed 'play' as she rested her head against the side of the door and stared blindly at the countryside.
Edward's laughter died down and then his deep, molasses smooth voice continued, "Seriously, I want you to be happy and before you disagree with me; I know that you are happy, but for the next ten days my wish is that you would stretch yourself more than ever before. Try doing something that you are afraid of; try something new; be brave, Little Girl, and remember, I am a mere phone call away. I love you Isabella, so much more than I ever thought possible and if we were to live for eternity, my love would just grow. To Infinity, my sweet Baby, and beyond."
Mauro almost stopped the car, but Bella just waved him on and told him that they were happy tears.
The driver shook his head, he understood about happy tears. Rica had shed enough of them over the years, and so had he. He watched as the lovely Signora Cullen pulled out her phone and hit a button.
"Edward," she choked out before she began to cry again.
"Bella! Are you alright?" Mauro could hear the alarm in her husband's voice through the phone, "I'm fine, but I just listened to your m-m-essage!"
Back at the house the entire family was watching Edward as he paced and tugged on his hair.
"She's fine," he whispered as he listened to his wife's soft cry. He smiled at Carlisle and walked outside onto the patio.
The water below was as cobalt blue as the sky.
"Thank you Sparky. I love you too." She whispered and the small hole in Edward's chest got a little bigger.
He rubbed the spot absently and smiled, "How long until you reach Florence?" He asked, although he knew the answer – he had been tracking the car on his laptop – it was fitted with a GPS.
Emmett said he was a crazy stalker, but Edward could hear that he didn't mean it. No one blamed him for checking on Bella. He heard her ask Mauro the question.
"About an hour, or so. I will call you later. I just wanted you to know that I love you."
"Oh and Edward?"
"Six kids? Six? Seriously, you want six kids? Have you lost your ever-loving mind? We do not have room for six kids Edward! And my tits are going to sag to my feet! You are not Mel Gibson, you know! We believe in birth control in the first world!" Bella stopped raving to catch her breath.
Edward laughed, "Too many?"
Bella muttered something that sounded like, 'Dear Lord!' and 'God help me!' before she huffed and was silent for a moment. Just when he thought that she wasn't going to answer, she shocked him, "Humph! We will talk about it! Only talk, Sparky!"
Bella disconnected the call just as she heard Edward give a rebel yell.
Could they love and raise six children? And not lose themselves and each other along the way? What about their D/s time? What about her work? Edward's work? What about…
Bella smiled as she stared ahead of her, and she knew that without a doubt, she and Edward, together with their families could do anything.
She was excited and scared but she could do anything, right? After all, she thought to herself, the other people on the tour are just people like us – no big deal!
THIS IS THE END OF PEOPLE LIKE US – A FAMILY LIKE OURS WILL BE THE CONTINURATION OF THIS STORY – PLEASE PUT ME ON AUTHOR ALERT TO BE NOTIFIED WHEN IT BEGINS.
A/N: And that my dearest friends is that. I can't believe that I have spent two years of my life writing about these characters. I hope with all my heart that you will stay with me as we continue down the years with this insane, crazy, sex-starved, (and sometimes depraved) miss-match family.
Like I said before, my next story is HOPE SPRINGS and I hope that you will give it a chance. MY STORY NEEDS A BANNER – SO IF ANYONE HAS ANY IDEAS, LET ME KNOW? No, that Bella and Edward are nothing like 'our' couple. I would never try and duplicate them.
There are so very many people that have enhanced my writing skills, that have helped me, that have given me a hand to hold and a heads up!
Fiorella; you found me and begged me to let you fix my atrocious grammar and spelling – I have been at your mercy ever since and will always be your Subby! You are a sister, a friend and even though we are literally oceans apart, I love you stacks and more. Thank you, Fee.
Lori: Honey, you were such a great help to me – thank you so much.
To all of my friends and sisters, on the Web, that this story has brought me, thanks for sticking with me, I hope it was worth it.
To everyone at TCWS and Fanfic who had read, reviewed, encouraged and faithfully given me feedback, week after week, I thank you, with tears in my eyes (literally!). There are just too many people for me to thank individually, but you all know who you are – Nickeyd26, Kasi HUGS AND KISSES!
So, *sniffs*, this is not good bye AT ALL but only so long and I will post my first chapter of HOPE SPRINGS in two weeks time.
All my love, hugs, kisses and snuggles,