Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to S Meyer
Reposted chapter 30, completely beta'd lol... working on the epilogue now.
A/N: Okay everybody... This is the last chapter before the epilogue.):
I want to thank everyone of you who have given my story a chance. I have loved every one of your reviews and PM's...
Thanks so much for sticking with me through out my story. Life got crazy and it took a LONG time to update so I felt it was time to wrap this up.
I'm not robbing you of anything though, this is exactly how I had planned the story ending... it's even in my outline...a lot of stuff goes down this chapter, including a LEMON, because I have been slacking so much, and I would love to know what you think so please take a second after reading and review.
Thanks again and I hope you love this chapter as much as i did.
3 months later
"Oomf," I breathed as I plopped my body down on the couch. "When is this going to end? I am about sick of interviews already."
I quickly snuggled against Edward as he sat down next to me.
"I know, love." His arms pulled me closer to him. "It should all be over soon. The story is slowly dying down."
"Argh," I whined into his chest like a spoiled child who didn't get her way, "I want it over now."
I felt his soft chuckle as he leaned down to place a kiss in my hair.
We had been non-stop with interviews and press releases since word came out of my return. Everyone in the local FBI headquarters wanted a play-by-play from all involved, from the time that I was abducted, the full three weeks I was in Italy, and everything that led up to my return.
Phil, his men, my brother, Edward, and I were stuck in a room for hours, sitting around a table while we retold the story. I held onto Edward the entire time, listening for the first time as they spoke about how they worked with James's men to get me home.
Apparently, the cell phone I had stolen to call home happened to be Laurent's. When James gave it back to him, after punching him a few times for being too stupid to have it stolen, he had not deleted the number. Laurent had been tired of James for awhile now, sick of his cocky can't-touch-me attitude. He had just been biding his time until he could knock James off his pedestal. Laurent had decided too that he finally had his perfect opportunity and called my family back.
After he was able to convince the guys that he wanted to help me, he worked with Phil and his men to get me away from James.
But he wasn't the only one who was sick of James.
While Laurent was working with my family, Alec had called Aro's brother Giovanni and worked out a deal with him to allow my family to get me without being harmed. Alec was to inform Phil that under no circumstances was anyone allowed to kill James. Giovanni wanted his revenge for James killing his brother, and he wanted to deliver it himself.
It wasn't as hard as you would think, considering all the enemies James had acquired in his own men. Marcello and Caius had been leaking information back to Giovanni ever since Aro was killed. His men were going to seek revenge one way or another, even if they had to use me to get to him. Giovanni really wanted to take me away from James in order to get James to do whatever Giovanni asked, but Alec was able to convince him that they could still get James cornered for Giovanni without using me to do it.
So Giovanni had agreed to let my family come get me as long as no one was around to interfere with whatever they had planned for James, basically my life for James's. Even though everyone in my family wanted to kill him, they wanted me home safe more. Giovanni did promise that if James was able to get away, Giovanni would come back to his original plan ... which was to use me as bait.
Everyone worked together in order for everyone to get what they wanted. Giovanni was able to get James, and I was able to escape unharmed.
After reuniting with my family on that empty road, we all drove away and never looked back. Phil had been trying to find out what exactly Giovanni did to James but hadn't gotten any answers. It wasn't surprising. James double-crossed a highly powerful family. It doesn't take a genius to figure out what they did to him.
My family was not exaggerating about the press; they were lined up everywhere we went without letting up. The day after I had gotten back, we sat in the FBI headquarters filling them in on every detail of the ordeal for over eleven hours and not once did the press leave. In fact, there was triple the amount upon my exiting the building as opposed to entering it.
Every newspaper in Washington and other major magazines had already gotten their story from a few weeks after I talked with the FBI, yet it still seemed as if it was never enough. The local news had requested a follow up interview, which we just came back from. . . . Apparently, we're still a hot commodity, which was bullshit; they were just using our horrible experience to sell their shit.
Us Weekly, OK, and People actually paid us to do interviews; we didn't really need the money, but it was easier to agree to talk with them and let them snap their pictures as opposed to being followed around and having them take what little info they could get and twist it into something juicy.
Sports Spectrum was the most persistent, though . . . considering how popular my brother was to the sports world. They were also the most compassionate. They told the story like it happened, no twists or juicy suspense ending. They kept the four page spread as real as could be told from an outside point of view. They had sent two of their top writers and a photographer to come and stay with us for a week. They observed us as a family and slowly learned of our story, starting with the death of my parents and ending with a family trying to move on from a nightmare.
They asked questions when they wanted clarification but did so in a way to make them seem as an old friend being curious and not some reporter getting gossip. They wrote the truth, but not once in the article did they comment on how Emmett Swan walked away from Pro-Football to protect his little sister, even though that's exactly what happened. They may not have used those words, but they wrote the story in a way that anyone who read it would understand how much we loved each other and how much we would sacrifice to keep each other safe. I wanted everyone to know that my brother had been my hero my entire life. How he raised me after our parents died, how he took care of me when I was pregnant, how he risked his own life to come overseas to bring me back home. And how, no matter how much money they offered him, Emmett turned down a career in the NFL . . . for me.
Emmett will deny it until he's blue in the face, but his decision to turn down all offers was so he could watch out for both Emma and me. Like I said, you won't find those words anywhere in the article, but if you read between the lines, it was there.
I caused my brother's career to end before it could even begin, and that's something I'll have to live with for the rest of my life. But like Emmett told me one night when I was beating myself up . . . football wasn't what he saw for his future.
It had been about a week after the article had come out, and I was having one of my . . . not so good days.
I had just read the article again, and even though I loved every word printed in it, I couldn't help the amount of remorse that filled me when thinking about what my brother had to give up.
I gently shifted the edge of the framed copy I had Edward hang in the living room when my brother walked up behind me.
"Stop it, sis," he told me lightly.
"I can't help it, Em," I said through my tears.
I felt his hand rest on my shoulder and quickly placed mine on top of his.
"I don't blame you, and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. I would do it a thousand times over just to get you back."
"I know you wanted to play ball, Em. Don't try to make me feel better," I sighed.
"Bells, you have to listen to me and listen good." He wasn't angry, but his words were firm, and he slowly turned me so we were facing each other. "Did I want to go pro? Sure. . . . Who doesn't think about that? Was I good at football? Of course . . . but I've told you several times, and this time you need to get it through that thick ass skull of yours."
I couldn't help but laugh at his statement and quickly wiped the tears from my face.
"Ever since Emma came into our lives, things changed for me. I see a different future for me, which doesn't include playing football."
He held my gaze, making sure what he was saying was sinking in . . . and it was. The future I had envisioned for him and the one he saw were different.
"I don't want to travel my whole life; I don't want to miss one second of seeing my M&M growing up. . . . Rosie and I are going to open up our shop and have lots of nieces and nephews for you, and not once will I look back and wish I had played pro. . . . Understand?"
I nodded in agreement and hugged him tight.
"I know, Em . . ."
"So then stop, Bells. . . . No more regret or this whole pity thing. . . . It doesn't look good on you."
I laughed out loud this time and pushed him away teasingly.
"I love you, brother, and if you're not going to miss football . . . then neither am I, even though I still think it would have been awesome to have a brother in the NFL."
He laughed with me for a few seconds before grabbing my hand and walking us out of the living room and into the backyard where the rest of the family was.
We stood there side-by-side, holding hands, just watching.
"If there was ever a choice between saving my life . . ." he paused briefly then shook his head before he continued. "If there was ever a choice between just me and something you were good at, Bella—which would you choose?"
How could he even ask that?
I turned to glare at him, instantly pissed.
"That's the most stupid—"
And with that, my pity party days were over. The look on his face and the way he held my hand was enough to finally get through to me. My brother was perfectly happy without the NFL.
Edward's tugging on my hand snapped me out of my musings.
"What's going on in that beautiful head of yours?" he asked softly.
I leaned closer to him. "Nothing, everything . . . just thoughts, babe."
I felt him nod against me. "What time do Rose and Emmett get in?"
I smiled and sat up quickly, looking at the clock. "We have to pick them up in about two hours."
Emmett and Rosalie were flying back from their Hawaiian honeymoon and would be at the airport soon. My brother had finally gotten married to the love of his life, and I finally got my sister. It was a small ceremony, much like mine had been, but it was perfect for them, and Rose had looked like a vision in her dress.
After everything that had happened to our family, I felt like it was the perfect time for a wedding. We needed something to celebrate, something that could knock everyone out of the funk we had been stuck in surrounding my kidnapping. What better way to do that than attending my brother's wedding?
It took us girls about a month to plan out their perfectly small wedding, but we pulled it off. Two weeks ago before God and our family, my brother stood across from me at the front of the church wearing the biggest smile, while we watched Emma scatter rose petals on the floor and an equally happy Rosalie being escorted by her father down the aisle.
It was beautiful.
Just like them.
The reception . . . well, that was a different story. Let's just say, keg stands were involved, cake was thrown, clothes were ripped, and the smile that they both wore the next morning as they boarded the plane let us all know they wouldn't have changed a thing.
Best reception . . . hands down.
"Should we head over to help the others set up for the party?" Edward asked through a yawn.
I giggled softly and shook my head. "I called after we left the news station, and your mom said they were finished. She told me that all we needed to do was bring back the newlyweds."
We had decided to throw Emmett and Rosalie a welcome home party. We also wanted to surprise them with the fact that they would finally have a house to themselves. While they were gone, I had fully moved out and into the house that Edward had bought for us, which was, coincidentally, less than one block from my brother's. Not only so they could be alone, because never once had my brother ever pushed me to move out, but it was time for me to live with my husband. Emma, of course, would still have her room there.
"And Emma's still with Grandpa getting the cake, right?" Edward asked with a hint of playfulness. I turned from where I had been standing to see the mischievous look in my husband's eyes.
"Yes, she is," I told him and couldn't help how my body reacted to the look in his eyes. He wanted to play, and who was I to ever say no? I licked my lips and leisurely took a few steps back, little by little, loving the way he was getting worked up.
I watched him as he slowly got off the couch and began walking toward me as he, very sexily, started to unbutton his shirt. That man was too sexy for his own good; every time he looked at me with that little gleam in his eyes, my panties would automatically be soaked with arousal.
"So, we have the house to ourselves for the next . . ." his eyes playfully shifted to the clock on the wall ". . . hour and fifty-two minutes."
I bit my lip and shook my head, playing along as my breathing began to pick up. "It'll take us thirty minutes to drive to the airport. So that leaves us with an hour and twenty-two minutes."
His eyes glossed over as he watched me continue to walk backwards and remove my shirt, flinging it across the room, not caring where it landed.
"Well, we don't have much time to waste, now do we?" he breathed heavily as he threw his shirt somewhere and began to unbuckle his belt, still walking toward me.
My eyes grew big, and I licked my lips as my back hit the wall, knowing I had nowhere else to go but loving what was about to transpire.
I watched him kick off his shoes and let his pants slowly fall down his legs before he quickly stepped out of them and then hurriedly pressed his body against mine.
As much as I loved working him up and playing with him, my hunger for his body inside mine won out, and I forcefully grabbed handfuls of his hair and brought his lips to mine.
His eagerness matched mine, while our tongues began to fight for dominance. His expert fingers removed my bra, while I managed to slide his boxers off his hips. Teeth and tongues and lips were everywhere we could attach them until he hit that spot that had me throwing my head back. He knows how to work my body with his mouth, that lush mouth that worked its way down my torso, across my breasts, down my stomach. His hands moved from my hips to my thighs as his head descended further down my body.
Too impatient to remove my skirt, he bunched it up around my waist and ripped my panties from my body as he buried his face between my legs, expertly making me gasp for breath and claw savagely at his shoulders. I put my hands on his head, crushing his mouth to me more tightly, silently begging him to give me what I wanted, what I needed. His licking turned to sucking, and my fingers curled in his hair.
I moaned his name, grabbing his hair and pressing his face closer. His responding murmur was lost within me, and I slouched further down on the wall as his tongue burrowed into me, thrusting leisurely. Tomorrow, my thighs would bear tell-tale bruises, I'm sure, but I didn't care. His fingers were digging into my tender flesh, and I loved it. His nose bumped against me, the electric jolts making my hips rise off the wall.
His tongue slipped out of me, and my cry of protest turned into another throaty moan as it reasserted itself between my folds. I swear that I could feel every taste bud on his tongue, that wonderful tongue.
A long finger entered me, pressing against my walls. I could feel my body beginning to coil, like a five-foot-two-inch spring, and I looked down at his dark head through shuttered eyes. Finally, finally, finally his tongue stroked my clit, and as I cried out again, a second finger slid into me.
"Fuck, Edward . . ." I hissed, arching off the wall in pleasure. The spring was winding tighter and tighter, and I heard a roaring in my head. When his lips clamped around the nub and tugged, I inhaled sharply and held my breath as my body convulsed with the force of my orgasm. It didn't take long for my body to succumb to the bliss that only Edward could bring to me.
I screamed, bucking and spasming around his thrusting fingers.
Somewhere in my screaming out his name, his lips made the path back up to my face, instantly attaching his lips to mine. My tongue was a greedy bitch and lapped furiously at the taste of myself on his mouth. I was too busy tasting myself to notice the growl coming from him until I felt his hands on the back of my thighs.
My body wanted more and apparently so did his.
I draped both my arms around his neck, while holding his mouth to mine as he easily lifted my body off the ground, forcing my legs to wrap around his waist. They tightened around him like a vice as I felt the head of his cock tease my entrance right before he slammed into me fully, knocking my body against the wall.
I threw my head back and moaned as his grip on me tightened.
"Fuck," I heard him growl out before he began to move in and out of me.
His moaning grew louder, and I opened my eyes to watch him. I always loved watching him when we were together. The look on his face was the perfect combination of ecstasy and love.
His body was moving feverishly inside of mine as he alternately kissed me and murmured my name. The pleasure was too much, and I squeezed my arms tighter around his neck while attacking his mouth again as my body began to orgasm.
I heard my name fall from his lips as his hands gripped my hips painfully before he thrust up one last time as his body quickly followed mine over the edge.
Making love with Edward never got old. The fact that we knew each other's bodies inside and out only enhanced each time we were together. I loved that I was the only one who knew how to get him so worked up he would be on the verge of exploding. But I loved even more the fact he could play my body as expertly as he did his piano.
"I love you," I murmured when I regained control of my senses, loving the way the room was filled with the smell of our love making and heavy breathing.
"I fucking love you, too, Bella," he hummed, causing me to giggle softly at his choice of words.
I don't know where he found the strength, but after a few more minutes of standing there against the wall, still connected, Edward carried us up the stairs and into the bathroom.
We showered together, resisting the urge for round two, before we dressed and headed to the airport to pick up the newlyweds.
"SURPRISE!" Everyone shouted as Emmett and Rosalie followed us inside their house.
"Thanks, guys," Rosalie said before she began hugging everyone.
"M&M!" My daughter squealed as she left her Papa's arms and dropped the 'Welcome Home' sign she had been holding, so she could launch herself into my brother's eagerly waiting arms.
"There she is," he said excitedly as he lifted her off the ground and began to swing her in circles. "I missed my favorite Emma."
She laughed and continued to squeeze her chubby arms around his neck as they fell back into their own little world. Even as Emmett made his rounds in hugging everyone, she refused to let him put her down. She had missed him a lot and apparently needed him to make up for lost time. Rosalie only laughed at my daughter when she leaned in for a hug from her and Emma barely leaned away from Emmett to wrap one arm around Rosalie's in order to give her a quick squeeze. It was pretty much how the rest of the night went; Emma and Emmett were attached at the hip, almost literally.
It was a great night, and we were all happy to have the family together again. We all ate until we about burst, yet still found more room for desert. We stayed awake, playing silly games and listening to music. We even gathered around the computer to look at the more child-appropriate pictures from Hawaii, completely ignoring the XXX folder that was right next to it.
It was a great night, and as soon as Emma fell asleep in my brother's arms, of course, we started talking about what we should do for her birthday that was coming up.
"She'll be two, Emmett. I seriously doubt she needs to have a circus in her backyard." I rolled my eyes for what seemed the hundredth time. He was hell bent on renting a circus for her, and I was completely against it. She didn't need all that; he disagreed.
"She needs clowns and balloons and a pony ride, we could get a Jump-For-Fun, order pizza, have a water fight," he continued to prattle on while everyone laughed at his enthusiasm.
I shook my head.
"Emmett, for one, it's the end of October. Her birthday is in November; it's too cold to have a water fight. And for two, I'm pretty sure those are all things you want at your party, so let's plan it for then."
I laughed as he threw a couch pillow at me.
"Whatever," he grumbled playfully.
"You know she'll love anything we do for her," Edward said and wrapped his arm around my shoulder.
"I know!" Alice said excitedly. "Let's throw her a princess party."
"Huh?" Pretty much everyone in the room asked.
"A princess party," Alice repeated with a look that clearly read—duh. "You know, we all dress up as Disney princesses. Rose can be Sleeping Beauty, Bella can be Belle, I'll be Snow White, Mom can be a very young and beautiful fairy godmother, and Emma can be Princess Jasmine or Little Mermaid . . . or actually Tinkerbell. She loves Tinkerbell, or she might want us all to be Fairy princesses . . ." she paused momentarily then continued as if nothing happened. "Not sure—we'll have to ask her. We'll decorate the whole house as a castle with balloons, streamers, and huge banner that reads, 'Happy Birthday Princess Emma'. We could even have a huge castle cake. Oh my gosh, this will be so much fun to decorate." Her hands clapped, and she began to bounce in her seat, obviously excited about her idea.
Her rant seemed to have left us all needing to catch our breaths, but it wasn't a bad idea.
"I love it," Esme beamed after a minute of silence.
"I do, too."
It was a perfect idea for her. Emma is already the little princess of the family. Why not have a little costume party birthday? Especially since we were all skipping Halloween this year. We weren't sure what happened to James, but no one wanted to think about who could be lurking behind a mask all night long, so we made a group decision to pass this year.
"Okay, but there is no way I am wearing tights or a tunic," Emmett stated, followed by all the guys agreeing with him.
We laughed at the men and shook our heads.
"Duh," Alice stated and slapped her hands on her thighs. "Besides, there's not enough time to order proper costumes for you guys anyways. Just wear your tuxedos, and I'll find some kind of crown for all of you to wear."
"I think this is going to be wonderful." Esme clapped with Alice. "We'll need to look into some games that would be great for her to play, and maybe you, Emmett, could look into renting a castle Jump-For-Fun."
"Hell yeah!" He grinned big and pretty and looked right at me. "We could always put it inside one of those big ass event tents we have in storage, and if it gets too cold, we can put a portable heater out there, too. It'll be great."
"She's going to love it." Carlisle smiled as he looked at his sleeping granddaughter.
"Okay, so it's settled. Tomorrow, we'll ask her if she wants to be a Disney princess or a Fairy princess, and we can start getting everything together. Alice, you'll do the costumes. Rosalie, you can find the cake. Esme and I can do the games and decorations, and the guys can figure out the tent and Jump-For-Fun."
Everyone helped clean up the party mess and ended up finally leaving Emmett and Rosalie's after midnight. They offered . . . well more like Emmett insisted on keeping Emma since she was already asleep, and he didn't see the need in waking her up by loading her in and out of the car. . . . Uh huh, sure.
I didn't put up a fight, because I knew how much they missed each other.
Besides, it allowed my husband and I to go for round two . . . and three . . . and maybe four and five without worrying about tiny ears in the house.
"So what do you think we should get her?" Edward asked as we strolled through the busy mall. Emma's birthday just happened to be around Holiday shopping time, and so every store we went to was packed full. Not only were we fighting through a holiday crowd, but we had to decide which presents to give her for her birthday and which ones to save for Christmas.
My little girl was going to be spoiled for life.
"Well, I don't think she really needs anything, so I guess we just get her whatever we think she'll like."
"Good point." He smiled and pulled me closer against him, wrapping his arm around my waist instead of holding my hand. "Let's run to Hallmark then."
I smiled and quickly nodded my head and let him lead the way.
For her first birthday, Edward had bought Emma a small porcelain doll that was holding a number '1', which was the start of her collection. He wanted to make sure by the time she graduated that she had all eighteen. I loved it.
I found a few books for her as well and decided to save those for Christmas. I wanted to stick to a princess theme with her presents for her party.
"Hey, Edward," I called to him from the next row. "We should find her a princess sleeping bag or something. You know, stick to her party theme."
He joined me with his own arms carrying stuff to buy her and grinned big. "Like this?"
He held up a light pink crown that you would hang up for decoration and showed me a package of wall stickers, all princess.
"We could stencil her name on this and put it above her bed. Then she could arrange the stickers however she wanted around her room."
My smile felt endless as I gazed at him and his armful of gifts.
"I love you. . . . It's perfect."
His answering smile almost made me melt right there in the middle of the store; he was beautiful.
We continued to look around the store, and I was able to find a princess castle photo frame for a child's first year. I quickly snatched it up, seeing that it was the last one and began to mentally sort through all the pictures I knew I had taken that would be perfect in each of the thirteen slots, twelve small, which were from birth to eleven months, and then a slightly bigger slot for her one year photo. Even though this was her second birthday, I felt it would be a great present for her.
We decided to have her party at Esme's, since the Jump-For-Fun fit better in their backyard and ended up taking all the presents back there to wrap with her and Carlisle. Emma was still with Alice, getting her pretty princess manicure and pedicure . . . compliments of her Aunty Ali and Uncle Jazz, so we knew the coast was clear to start all the wrapping.
Emmett and Rosalie joined us shortly after we got there, and we all started to tackle the huge pile of presents spread out across the living room.
"Good Lord," I stammered after seeing the finished pile of gifts. "What are we going to do at Christmas time?"
It was meant as a joke, but I could hear a few groans in agreement.
"I think you're right," Carlisle stated. He, too, was standing and looking at the mountain of pink princess wrapped gifts. "Maybe we should reel it back a little."
We all slowly nodded and found a place to sit that wasn't covered in presents.
"Look . . ." Emmett was the first to begin ". . . I love that little munchkin, and no one loves present time more than me, but at this rate, she'll never even get a chance to play with half the stuff we buy her."
"I agree," Esme chimed. "So should we all set a limit on how many we buy her and each other?"
"I think that would be best. I mean, I know we will all have our own trees at our houses, but we know we're going to end up in the same place on Christmas Day, so why not start there, where to be on Christmas Day?"
"Well, normally I would say our house, but I think maybe we should let the newlyweds host Christmas Day," Carlisle suggested. "We don't mind at all, but I feel we are taking away everyone else's chance at hosting something."
"I'm down. . . . My Rosie loves Christmas, so I think it's perfect." He leaned over and kissed his wife's smiling face. "What do you say, babe?"
"Really?" She squealed in excitement. "Alice is going to be so jealous."
"She'll be fine. We'll let them host Thanksgiving," Esme added with a smile.
"Okay, so that's settled." Carlisle clapped his hands once and leaned over to grab a paper off the end table. "Now, on to the presents. Secret Santas are what the hospitals have always done. It eliminates people getting left out and keeps people from ending up broke."
We were all silently thinking about the idea of a Secret Santa before Esme broke the silence.
"I think for a hospital or any other type of employment that the idea is great . . ." she paused and looked at Carlisle ". . . but for family I don't like that idea."
"I don't either."
"Me either," we all said at the same time.
Carlisle laughed and held up his hands. "It was just one of my suggestions."
He shook his head playfully and looked back down at his paper. "We can cross that idea off the list. How about setting a limit on how many presents we each buy for each other?"
"What do you mean?" Emmett asked.
"Well, we all want to buy presents for the family, but instead of each of us buying separately for everyone, why don't we do it as couples? Each couple buys one present for each couple."
He looked around the room and was met with nothing but silent nodding before Emmett spoke up.
"Now that I can work with." He smiled playfully. "The present that the couples buy for the couples can be under our tree and opened on Christmas Day with the family, and then we'll save Christmas Eve Day for our personal presents. That way the trees that are in your houses have something under them."
"That's a great idea." I smiled at my brother.
"Those are the only ones I have, Belly Bear."
"Shut up." I laughed and chucked a pillow at him.
"All right . . ." Edward started ". . . so our presents for our spouses stay at our own houses and get opened Christmas Eve Day, since we will all be spending Christmas Eve Night at Emmett's."
Everyone nodded in agreement.
"What are we going to do about Emma's then . . . because that . . ." he teasingly pointed to her mountain of presents ". . . can't happen every year."
"No doubt," Emmett groaned.
"So we'll set a limit on how many everyone buys." I sat up and looked at everyone.
"Five each couple!" Emmett shouted.
"Are you nuts?" I looked at him as if he had three heads. "That'd be fifteen total from you guys, including Alice and Jasper, plus another five from us. She does not need twenty presents. Maybe we stick to the couple rule, and each get her one."
"She's my only niece. Five."
Emmett and I were having a stare down; no one else seemed to want to get into this particular discussion. There was no way I was going to let her receive so many presents. She didn't need that many. My daughter was far from a brat, even though she had been spoiled since day one, but I want her to appreciate what she's given; she can't do that if she's overwhelmed with gifts.
We were at a standstill. There was no way I was going to budge, and from the way his eyes began to squint at me, it didn't look like he was planning on backing down either.
Not sure how long we continued to glare at each other, until Rosalie put her hand gently on Emmett's.
"Babe, she's her mother. We have to respect what she says."
That made me stop.
It wasn't what she said . . . because what she stated was the truth. I am her mother, and they should respect what I say. No, it was how she said it. With the sad puppy-dog look on her face and the somber tone in her voice as if she had just been defeated.
My mouth dropped open in shock, because I could not believe Rosalie flippin' Swan would actually try to guilt-trip me.
I heard a snort off to my left and looked to see Carlisle's poor attempt at hiding his laughter and quickly returned my glare back to my brother and evil sister-in-law.
I guess one present was going a little extreme, but I really didn't want to back down, not after being tag-teamed. My pride was seeing this through, so I held my glare.
"Four," my brother growled out.
"One." I smirked and decided to play dirty. Raising my eyebrow as expertly as my daughter, I nodded my head. "You know what? Now that I think about it, those are an awful lot of presents she's getting for her birthday. She really doesn't need any for Christmas."
That got his attention.
"Okay, okay!" he shouted and stomped his foot from where he was sitting. "Geez, Bella, ya flippin' Scrooge. Two presents then. Two from each couple. That way I can get her one, and Rosie can get her one."
I smiled in satisfaction. "Okay, I can work with that." Using his words from earlier before I looked back at them. "And don't ever try and gang up on me again . . ."
Rosalie just started laughing. "We almost had you, though."
"You're evil," I teased back.
Alice and Jasper walked in a few minutes later carrying Emma, who instantly wanted down as soon as she got in sight of the living room.
Her mouth dropped open, and she stared in awe at the mountain of princess wrapping paper.
"Presents, Mama?" she asked in a daze.
We all laughed at how adorable she was.
"Yes, baby, those are all your presents for your party tomorrow."
"Pretty prin'ess." She smiled and looked at my brother.
"You're a pretty princess." He reached over to tickle her. She laughed and ran away, jumping right into Carlisle's lap.
"No, M&M, no. . . ." She laughed and bounced on Carlisle's lap a little too hard and made him wince.
"Easy, sweetheart, you're not a little baby anymore." He snickered and readjusted her to sit on his knees. "You're getting to be a big girl."
She turned around so she could face him and held up her pointer and middle finger, looking at them closely before showing them to him.
"I two, Papa."
He grinned softly. "That's right, Emma. Tomorrow, you are going to be two."
She smiled back before turning around, so she could see the rest of us.
Esme filled Alice and Jasper in on the system we devised for presents and let them know they were hosting Thanksgiving. Alice wanted Christmas, but she was fine after Rosalie offered to let her help with decorations.
Emma started to yawn, and I told everyone we would be back early to start decorating.
"Are you going to get her from my house tomorrow morning, or do you want to just meet up here?" I asked Alice as I put on Emma's jacket.
"We can just meet up here. I can get her ready upstairs while you and Mom are decorating. All the stuff is here anyways to get ready. "
"All right," I said through my own yawn, giggling softly. "We'll see everyone tomorrow."
The party turned out beautifully.
There were purple, pink, and white streamers everywhere. She had a castle, crown and happy birthday balloons scattered throughout the house. It took her over an hour to get through every last present, but she did it and then ran as fast as she could back outside to jump in the Jump-For-Fun. She loved that thing, barely came out of it . . . and I could only guess what Emmett was going to buy her for Christmas.
It was a great party. Emma was a little sad when the man had to take down her Jumpy, as she called it, but he did stay an extra three hours for her. Poor guy, he was another sucker for her brown eyes. We sent him home with a ton of food and cake to give to his kids, so he didn't mind too much, but apparently nine o'clock was his breaking point. Emma did give him a hug and told him thank you before he left, causing him to blush.
Edward borrowed Emmett's truck to take all the presents home, because there wasn't enough room for all of them plus Emma in the back seat of my car, even with the trunk space. I told him we'd bring it back tomorrow; we were all exhausted.
Emma made her rounds of kisses and hugs.
"Bye," her tiny voice yelled as we walked out the door.
I wasn't surprised that she was still wide awake when we pulled up to the house. She'd had a very exciting day and didn't really get a chance to wind down.
"Okay, sweetie, let's get you into the bath, and then Daddy and I will read you one of your new books."
I was a little surprised that the house lights were still off, but I figured Edward must have crashed as soon as he got the presents unloaded.
I smiled softly and unlocked the door.
I found all her presents stacked in the living room and decided I would put a movie on for her while I got her bath ready and took some of her toys to her room.
"Prin'ess Frog, Mama." She bounced softly on the couch.
"Princess and the Frog, okay, but you only get to watch a little bit of it. I'm going to get your bath ready after I take some toys to your room."
I kissed her cheek and began trekking her toys upstairs.
I ended up making a few trips but figured it would be easier to bring all her toys to her room tonight than to wait for tomorrow. I saw her Princess Crown that Edward had stenciled her name on and wanted to hang that up above her bed. There was already a butterfly decoration hanging there, so instead of hammering a new hole to make room for her crown, I used the same nail and placed the butterfly on her dresser for the time being.
That had only taken a quick second, so I grabbed all her new books and placed them on her shelves, but I couldn't stop there. All the clothes that she had gotten were already on hangers, and I made quick work of separating them by color and hanging them up. I also had to put her new socks away and the many leggings she had gotten as well.
After I was finished, there were only a few toys that were in their boxes, which I pushed to the side of her room. Those could wait for tomorrow.
I finally entered the bathroom and started the water, adding a few drops of bubbles for the tub. I watched the tub start to fill then left to get her pajamas ready and laid them on her bed.
I was walking back to turn the water off and heard what sounded like something slamming downstairs. "Emma, was that you?" I called down but got no response.
I quickly leaned down and shut off the water, and as I stood up, I slipped, slammed my head into the door and reached out to try and stop from falling but knocked all the stuff on the side of the tub onto the floor.
"Ow," I laughed at my clumsiness, while rubbing my head.
I picked the toys up and placed them in the water before I set the shampoo back on the edge of the tub.
I headed downstairs but noticed our bedroom door was open and poked my head inside.
"Edward?" I whispered in case he was asleep, but I saw the bed was empty.
I walked downstairs, thinking he would be watching the cartoon with Emma but saw the couch was vacant.
As soon as I shut the TV off, I heard it.
The quiet sob of my daughter as she called out to her daddy through her tears.
Desperately trying not to panic, I quickly followed her cries into the kitchen, skidding to a halt as soon as the lights flicked on.
He stood in the middle of the kitchen, leaning against the island. His face was covered in fresh scars, and one eye was slightly swollen shut, but I'd know that evil smirk anywhere.
"I've been waiting for you." His voice had sent a rapid jolt to every nerve ending in my body, instantly draining my lungs of all air, making me lightheaded.
Before I had a chance to fully panic, my daughters cry snapped me back to reality.
My eyes left James and focused on my crying daughter, who seemed to be huddled over something. It didn't take me long to figure out what, or should I say who, she was huddled over. Without a second thought, I scooped her into my arms and gazed into the bloodshot eyes of my husband.
"Oh God, Edward," I whispered, trying so hard to stay strong for my daughter. Besides his mouth having duct tape over it, his hands and legs were tied together. Carefully trying to keep Emma hidden away from James, I tucked her head further into my neck before I sat up on my knees, reaching across the counter for a knife. I glared at James the entire time until I had to look away to cut through the rope on Edward's hands. As soon as his hands and feet were free, he ripped the tape off his mouth before gathering me and Emma into his arms.
"Dad-dy," her tiny voice broke as she began to shake violently in my arms.
"Daddy's fine, baby. Daddy's fine." He tried to soothe her as he stared daggers at James.
"Isn't this so sweet?" I winced at the sound of his voice and squeezed my eyes shut, hoping this was all a bad dream. I felt Edward move next to me and then quickly opened my eyes when I heard James threaten him.
"Uh uh uh . . . Edward, drop the fucking knife. You wouldn't want my gun to accidentally go off, now would you?" James mocked.
"Fuck you," Edward spat.
"Tsk tsk, such language in front of a child."
"Ma-ma," my daughter cried out, squeezing my neck so tight.
"Mama's here, baby. Shh, it's going to be okay," I tried to calm her down; the truth was I had no idea how this was going to play out.
"What do you want, you sick bastard?" Edward demanded.
"You're a bright boy, you figure it out." James looked at me and winked.
"Don't even think about it," he growled at James. "That's never going to happen. You might as well leave now."
I held my daughter tightly, trying to take the comfort of her little body wrapped around mine as a way to calm me down, but it wasn't working. As long as she was here, she was in danger.
"Please, James, please . . . just let my daughter go. She doesn't need to be around all this. I'm here. Edward's here. . . . You don't need her." I tried to control the shaking in my voice but was unsuccessful.
"Oh, but I think I do." He smirked and looked at Edward. "Seems like daddy here doesn't want to cooperate."
"Please, James, please . . . just let her go." Tears poured down my face as I begged on his deaf ears.
"Bring her here, Bella."
My heart dropped, and I held her even tighter. Edward was just as quick to stand up, blocking James's view of us.
"Bella, run," Edward hissed. "Take Emma and leave."
"Bella, don't even think about it. Bring her to me," he commanded.
"Bella, leave, now!" Edward shouted, which caused Emma to jump and scream.
It was complete chaos. Emma was screaming in my ear. Edward was yelling. James was yelling. . . . Leave or stay? . . . I was so torn. If I left, I knew Edward would be dead, and who's to say I would even make it to the door before James got to me. But if I brought Emma to James, who knows what that monster would do to her?
I stood up, contemplating what I should do until the cocking of a gun got my attention.
I looked over and saw James pointing the gun directly at Edward's head.
"Isabella, do not make me say it again."
I quickly looked over at Edward, who was currently glaring at James.
"Isabella, you bring her to me, and everyone lives. . . . If you try to run . . . I swear to you, they both will die."
I believed him. I knew from the look on his face he was telling the truth, but it still scared the shit out of me.
Emma was still hysterical, and if I was going to think clearly, I needed to calm her down. It took a few minutes, but once everyone stopped yelling, I was able to calm her screaming down to quiet sobbing, gently soothing her and constantly rubbing up and down her back.
"You promise you won't hurt her," I pleaded.
"Bella," Edward started but was cut off by James.
"I promise, angel. If you do as I say, no one dies."
"Can't we wait until she falls asleep, please? She's so scared right now." I was desperate to hold on to her. I didn't want to hand her to him.
He just shook his head. "I don't have a lot of patience, angel."
"Okay. . . ." I slowly resigned. I've seen James at his worst. I knew what happened when he'd reached his breaking point, and Emma did not need to witness any of that.
I was not sure how it happened, or exactly what had happened. One minute, I was slowly walking toward James. The next, I was covering Emma's ears and holding her close to me, crouched against the wall of the kitchen as Edward and James began fighting for the gun. I tried not to look, but I was so scared for Edward. I had to know what was happening.
I saw both of them landing punch after punch on each other before finally they landed on the ground, each one trying to overpower the other.
"Shh, baby, it's going to be okay," I kept repeating to my screaming daughter. "It's going to be okay."
I needed to stay strong for my daughter. It would do her no good if I became hysterical as well. Even though every sob that she wretched from her body was killing me slowly, I had to try and stay strong.
But it was an almost impossible feat when you watch helplessly as your husband is bashed repeatedly in the face. Somehow James had gotten the upper hand and was currently using Edward's body as a punching bag.
I began to silently cry and continued to tell my daughter everything was going to be okay, as I watched Edward's head bang off the kitchen floor for the third time before something to the left caught my eye.
And it was away from James.
There was no time for hesitation. With Emma still buried in my chest, I crawled as quickly as I could and picked up the gun, pointing it straight at James.
With one hand holding the gun and the other wrapped around my daughter, there was no way to cover her ears. She didn't need to see or hear anything, especially if I was going to be forced to kill James.
With a shaky breath, I tried to be as calm as I could for her.
"Emma, baby, Mama knows you're scared, but I need you to do something for me, okay?" Her little body continued to dry sob, while she clung to me tightly. "Mama needs you to keep your eyes closed, baby."
I wasn't sure if Emma had heard me or not, but apparently James had, and he dropped his hold on Edward and began to stand up, eyes locked with mine.
"Don't touch him again," I breathed out viciously.
"Bella, put the gun down." His voice was sickeningly sweet, but I didn't back down. The gun stayed aimed at his head. The same gun he had pointed at my husband, the same gun he was going to use to threaten my family. "Bella," he tried again, but I wasn't listening to him.
I didn't feel the tears that I knew were pouring down my face. I didn't pay attention to the croakiness of my voice. My sole focus was getting Emma to listen to me, without her seeing me with a gun in my hand. My eyes never left his, my deathly glare penetrating his ice cold eyes.
"Emma, I know you're scared, but I need you to cover your ears, baby. . . . You need to cover your ears and close your eyes as tight as you can."
"Bella, angel, what are you going to do?" James mocked with his evil smirk. "You see how scared she is. Put the gun down." He took one step, and my rage set in.
I never wanted to be responsible for killing someone, even a cold-hearted monster like James, but I would do whatever was needed to protect my daughter.
"Don't make me kill you, James." It came out as a sob. "I'll do it."
"No, you won't," he taunted.
Even staring down the barrel of a gun, he was still cocky. I raised my eyebrow in question, silently asking him why he would assume that.
He did a quick nod in the direction of my daughter and smirked again, never taking his eyes off mine. "You wouldn't make your own daughter watch you kill her father."
"You're right. I wouldn't," I stated and watched as he smiled as if he won.
But he misunderstood, and I shook my head. "Good thing my gun isn't aimed at Edward."
I watched his eyes widen in surprise before he quickly masked his fear.
He was leaving me with no other option, and I think James was beginning to realize how quickly his luck had run out.
"Emma, keep your eyes closed tight, baby, and cover your ears. . . . No matter what, don't look up." I could feel Emma's tiny hands loosen their hold on me and smiled sadly. "That's right, baby, cover your ears good and tight." I had been so caught up with keeping eye contact with James, I hadn't even seen Edward make his way over.
Before I could instruct her further, I felt her wrenched out of my arms and instantly cradled against her father.
"Dad-dy," my daughter sobbed in relief once she was enveloped safely in her daddy's arms.
"Shh, sweetheart, I got you. Baby girl, I got you." I could feel him against me, trying to reach for the gun.
"Bella," he croaked out. "I called the police. They are on their way."
I saw James's eyes tighten, and he glared at Edward.
This had to end.
"Get Emma out of here, Edward," I told him with a steady voice.
"Now, Edward . . . I have to stop him." I took a small amount of pleasure at seeing the way James began to panic. He tried hard to hide it, but I noticed. "Now!"
I heard Edward tell me he loved me before he finally took Emma out of there.
The minute I heard the front door click shut, I became aware of everything, every little sound around me. The soft hum of the refrigerator, the water filter in the fish tank, James's sudden increase in breathing, even the sirens from far away outside were crystal clear.
But I didn't falter, the gun stayed aimed at his head.
As soon as he realized his pleading wasn't going to work with me, he returned to mocking me, testing my limits. . . . Bad move on his part.
"Come on, angel. . . . You and I both know you won't shoot me. . . . Hell, you probably don't even know how to pull the trigger. There's not much the cops can do to me without proof. I'll be out in a year . . . and I'll come back. I'll find you again. Nothing and no one will keep us apart. Besides, you shoot me, you go to jail."
"I could empty this entire clip into your chest and never once see the inside of a jail cell."
"You won't, though. . . . We both know that."
I watched his body get ready to move toward me.
Before he could even take a step, I pulled the trigger, not killing him, simply sending a warning shot, grazing his left ear.
His fingers reached to touch his ear, and I heard him yell under his breath when he brought them to his face and saw they were covered in blood. James quickly looked at me in surprise.
I glared at him through my puffy eyes, and because I had been crying so much, when I spoke, it came out raw and scratchy. "My father was the chief of police. Your first mistake was forgetting that fact. Your second mistake was being too stupid to think he wouldn't teach his kids how to handle a gun."
"Angel, put the gun down," he tried to plead again.
"You've terrorized me for years, and you've made it clear you're never going to stop." I continued to glare at him. Ignoring his pleas, I fired another shot—this one hitting the opposite ear.
Again, the room was filled with his screams.
"Damn it. Bella, put the gun down," James repeated.
My voice was shaky, but my hand was steady as I fired another shot. "You broke into my house."
"Aww!" he screamed and slapped his hand against the bullet hole on his right shoulder. "Fuck!"
It took him a few seconds to calm down enough to look back at me.
"Bella . . ." he said in an almost whimper.
"You tried to kill my husband." This time I aimed for his left knee, which caused him to drop to the ground immediately. He screamed in agony as he tried to hold onto his knee that was bleeding profusely.
But I ignored his screams; I ignored my tears that were still running down my cheeks. I ignored the sirens that were getting closer and closer. But I was beyond having any compassion for this monster.
"You tried to hurt my daughter."
"Isabella!" he cried out in desperation.
I didn't hesitate to pull the trigger.
I watched as the blood began to seep through his shirt, covering his entire chest in blood, yet all I kept seeing was my husband tied up in the corner, and my daughter crying hysterically, all because of this monster.
"Bel—" he sputtered as blood spat from his mouth.
I didn't hear what he wanted to say to me. My next and final shot echoed through the room as his lifeless body fell to the floor.
I watched the puddle of blood get bigger and bigger, and still, I couldn't find it in me to hate what I did.
I barely registered the police barging in the house or the EMTs looking over the body lying on my floor; it wasn't until I felt a familiar pair of strong arms wrap around me that I snapped myself out of it.
"Bella, talk to me. . . . Are you okay?"
I hugged my brother back as tightly as I could and nodded my head; tears blurred my vision once more as I held onto him for dear life.
"It's over, Emmett," I whispered into his neck. "It's over."
A/N: Review please, I think it'll help get the epilogue out quicker...
I have a few future stories in mind... won't be as long as this one though.
Make sure you put me in author alerts.
Again, thank you to you all especially Punkybumpkin for your kick ass beta-ing... Good luck with school and thanks for all your help.
And another thanks to arj818 for helping me beta this chapter.