All characterizations, plot lines, backgrounds and details belong to the author. No copying or reproduction of this work in any language is permitted without the express written authorization of the author. Stephenie Meyer owns all things Twilight. Thank you. November 2010.
A millions thanks to my incredible beta xrxdanixrx. There are not enough words to express how much you mean to me, and how much you've helped me to shape this story. It's hard to believe that it's been almost a year. I've learned so much from you about writing, but I treasure your friendship most. It means everything to me.
Twilighted Beta – Shabbyapple. Thank you so much for taking this journey with me.
A world of thanks to the readers who lurk and those who review. I am truly grateful for sharing your thoughts with me.
To MizzezPattinson an amazing friend and supporter – I wouldn't be able to do this without you. I love you hun. (WAP.)
If you haven't figured it out by the words above, this will be the last chapter of Nineteen Canvasses.
See you at the bottom for a long ass author's note.
Let's see how things look for Bella.
"Sold to number 328 for one million, six hundred thousand dollars!" the auctioneer shouts with a flourish, slamming his mallet on the auction stand. The packed room at the Vancouver Convention Centre's waterfront ballroom erupts in applause; most of the overly dressed guests rising out of their chairs, unable to contain their excitement as the twenty minute heated bidding war for Edward's painting finally comes to a dramatic end.
I am in shock. My eyes feel like they are going to pop out of my head while my heart races at what has just happened. Rose is jumping up and down and squealing-a sight I've never seen before and hope to never see again. Edward just sits calmly, rubbing the back of his neck and casually sipping his white wine, which he told me earlier isn't a very good year, like this is not a big deal.
He tilts his head and smirks, raising his glass to the woman in a skin tight red dress, who is now fanning herself with auction paddle 328 as a crowd starts to gather around her. She clearly is someone who enjoys the attention, and I wonder briefly if they know each other. I try to push that unwelcome thought away as she stares back at Edward and nods her head, offering him a seductive eye quirk before she is ushered to the payment table to complete the transaction. Yeah… they definitely know each other.
"Oh my God!" Rose screams, untangling herself from Emmett's bear hug and hurling her body at Edward, almost knocking him out of his chair in the process. "Do you have any idea what this will do for the Foundation? How many programs we can fund?" She wraps her arms around his neck and kisses him, releasing him quickly and bouncing with Alice beside the table as the room continues to buzz with excitement.
Our table is surrounded quickly by crowds of people, each wanting a piece of Edward's time, gushing over him while Jasper snaps off picture after picture. It's all a little surreal, and I take advantage of the throngs who are practically clawing their way to get him to slip away from the table.
Lauren and James catch my eye as they make their way to the exit at the back of the room. I wasn't sure how Edward would react when I told him that Lauren fully intended on bringing him as her date, but once he found out that James was giving us a cash donation, he seemed to tolerate the idea. Alice and I made sure to put them at a table as far away as possible from ours.
James wraps his arm around Lauren's waist and smiles at me, while she practically falls all over him in a desperate attempt to make sure everyone sees them leaving together. I wonder briefly how long their relationship will last. Something tells me, not long.
I scan and find Renee's table easily; she is laughing louder than anyone else in the room. Carlisle and Esme look to be in shock as they stare at Edward's painting. Jake and Leah are also at the table, and he issues me his patented smirk when he sees me approaching.
I rest my hand on the back of Renee's chair as Carlisle smiles widely at me. "That was incredible," he gushes. "I'm just…"
"Stunned?" Mom asks, reaching back to cover my hand with hers.
"I think I am. I mean, its not every day you see something like that," he says, clearly overwhelmed by emotion.
I look back over my shoulder at the crowded table, seeing Edward's mass of disheveled hair. "He's amazing. This is going to change the Foundation and really make a difference."
Edward strains his neck above the crowd, searching the room until he finds me. He grins at me in amusement and continues to answer whatever question is currently being thrown at him, his eyes never leaving mine. I feel myself blush and look away, back to the table, where they are all staring at me. "How long has it been since you and Edward have had sex, dear?" Mom asks brazenly.
"Mom! Oh my God!" I'm beyond mortified. Thankfully, Carlisle and Esme burst out laughing at my insane mother and her inability to keep her mouth shut, while Phil just shakes his head and takes a long sip of beer.
"Mr. Fantastic having issues, Bells?" Jake asks smugly, earning him a hard smack in the chest from Leah.
"Not you, too, Jake?" I groan.
"What? Dear, it's a legitimate question. I can just feel the tension rolling off you. He's not having… trouble in that area, is he?" Renee asks, looking all concerned and completely oblivious.
"No! Of course not. Mom!"
"Because, I think I may have some gingko in my purse. It helps with blood flow to the—"
"Okay, okay, Mom!" I put my hand over hers, stopping her before she dives into her purse. "Good Lord you're unbelievable! Edward does not have any issues in that department." I flush brighter than the red dress the vixen that purchased Edward's painting is wearing. "I'm going to check on the dessert buffet," I mutter, utterly horrified.
I turn quickly and hurry to the expansive windows at the back of the room that houses the tables for the vast array of desserts that Alice has picked out. "End the night with chocolate, and they'll never be disappointed," I think is what she said. I didn't dare question her. I've learned over the years that it's not worth it, and besides, Alice knows what she's doing in this particular area.
As I lean against the dessert table, complete with a dark chocolate fondue fountain, I try to compose myself from the sheer embarrassment that only Renee can cause. Jake joins me a few minutes later, eagerly filling up a plate with as many desserts as he can.
"Congratulations, Bella. You guys did an amazing job," he says, shoving a chocolate cream puff into his mouth.
"Thanks, Jake. I hope you and Leah enjoy the little spa getaway you won. You didn't have to bid on anything, though. I'm just happy that you're here."
"As if I'd miss this. A pack of wolves wouldn't keep me away. Oh, and trust me, we'll enjoy the spa," he says, waggling his eyebrows at me.
I hit him in the chest. "You're such a guy."
"I'll have you know, I plan on proposing to Leah on this little spa getaway," he says, his expression turning serious. "You don't think that's corny, do you?"
"I think that's perfect. She'll love it."
He breathes a sigh of relief and leans against the table, his eyes following mine to where Edward is standing. "How's the roommate situation? You and the painting genius alright?" he asks, taking a bite of a mini strawberry cheesecake.
I smile up at him. "Yeah, we're good."
"I'm glad. You deserve to be happy, Bella."
"I am happy."
He nods and replaces the desserts he devoured with fresh ones. "Same time on Monday morning for the run?" he asks.
"I'll be there. Try and keep up this time."
"Whatever," he says, smirking and making his way back to the table. I watch as he kisses the top of Leah's head and sets the plate of desserts down in front of her. She smiles up at him adoringly before diving in to sample what's on the plate.
While Alice and Rose continue to try to handle the lingering crowd that has gravitated to Edward, I look around the packed room and take a moment to enjoy what we've accomplished tonight.
The ballroom has been transformed into a virtual forest, with Alice's dark green colour scheme. White mini lights that Emmett practically killed himself trying to hang, dangle from the ceiling that's been covered with a canopy of leaves. Flickering tea lights on each of the sold out tables cast a welcoming glow on the smiling faces of the guests seated around them.
Every long night, every argument, every single time we thought we were going to kill each other has led to this; a night where the Foundation has made close to two million dollars in support of the Boreal forest campaign. It's staggering when I think about how drastically different this fundraiser is from last year's. How drastically different I am from this time last year.
I search for Edward through the thinning crowd at our table and find him, standing with the woman in the red dress. Jasper is taking more pictures as she wraps her arm around Edward's waist and leans into him.
A feel a momentary rush of panicked jealousy while I watch her run her hand down the back of his grey suit jacket, inching painfully close to his ass. His entire body stiffens and he moves away discreetly, turning his attention to Alice, who is probably getting a statement from him for the follow-up piece she's doing for the magazine.
As I watch him nod his head and patiently answer question after question from Alice, I can't help but notice how tired he looks. These past few weeks have been extremely trying and have taken a toll on both of us.
He has painted like a man possessed, dropping into bed at two or three in the morning, too tired to do anything but drape his arm over my waist and crash. Rose, Alice, and I have tirelessly put the last minute details in place for the auction, working late, and grabbing take-out, which Edward would heat up, if he remembered to eat at all. Our conversations have been limited and focused solely on either his paintings or the auction.
Even through the insanity of it all, he has refused to give up his involvement in my nightly routine. It grows increasingly longer, Edward spending more time each night, cleansing and massaging my thigh, his touches reverent as we sink into a hot bath. It's our little sanctuary from the rest of the world. The one place where words aren't even needed, where it's just Edward and me.
On some level, Mom is right. We've both been too exhausted to even think about having sex… well, okay, so I think about it… a lot. How could I not with Mr. Sex on Legs to stare at on a daily basis. He gets so wrapped up in painting that I could spend literally hours staring at him and he wouldn't even notice.
I've memorized every single laugh line, every quirk, every unique movement that makes him the man I've fallen so desperately in love with. I've whispered the three words to him every night after he's passed out in bed, his hair and hands covered in paint, completely and utterly exhausted.
Those are the moments that have changed my life for the better; little snippets in time that may seem insignificant to most, but to me, mean everything. His fingers as they massage my thigh, his breath on my face while he sleeps beside me, the quirky smile and blaring classical music that greets me as he turns his head from whatever canvas he's working on when I come home at night. I simply cannot imagine my life without him.
I pick up a welcome glass of wine off the tray from one of the wandering waiters and move to Edward's painting, tilting my head to the side as I admire it. Every time I look at it, I see something different. Maybe it's because I've watched him turn it from a blank canvas, to this deeply intense and emotionally driven swirl of colour that defines who Edward really is.
Even though I thought the original painting he completed for the auction was fine, he wanted to paint something new. I didn't question him. I've learned not to when it comes to his intense need to paint. As I look at it now, I see a mix of complex emotions, ever changing, always wanting more, driven by hope.
That seems to be what most of Edward's paintings are about – hope. At least, that's what I feel when I look at them. I take a sip of wine and wonder if I'll ever see this particular painting again. I wonder where she'll hang it, and if she has any idea the emotion that went into creating it.
"You look good enough to eat tonight." His voice is deliciously thick with want as his lips brush against my ear. "You know, I've never seen you in a dress before."
The goose bumps erupt immediately over my body. "Mmmm. Don't get used to it." I slide my eyes shut and lean against his chest as he not so discretely wraps an arm around my waist and kisses my neck. "Done holding court?" I ask.
He laughs loudly and turns me to him, gripping my chin between his thumb and his index finger. "It's time for us to go," he says darkly, his green eyes dancing with excitement and desire as he glides his finger over my bottom lip.
My entire body heats under his intensity. "Really?" I ask, raising an eyebrow to him.
He nods slowly. "There's something I have to show you," he says mysteriously.
I pull back slightly from him and casually take a sip of wine. "But, I'm not done here."
"Yes. You are. I've already talked to Rose and Alice. You're mine," he whispers, running his nose along my neck. "For the rest of the night." He makes sure to accentuate each of the words, sending a full body shiver through me at the promise behind them.
Holy Fuck. He's all in control and completely focused on me, as if there is no one else in the room. My mouth goes dry. He keeps his eyes locked to mine and takes the wine glass from my shaking hands, drinking the remnants of it down. "This wine really isn't very good," he remarks, his tongue darting between his lips.
He holds his free hand out to me, and I take it eagerly. He strides with purpose, pulling me towards the exit. He sets the empty wine glass on the dessert table and takes one last look at the room.
I follow his gaze to Renee's table, where Carlisle is turned in his seat and staring at us. Edward smiles and nods his head ever so slightly, tugging gently on my arm as he takes off to the doors. I manage to get in a wave to Renee and Phil before he pushes the door open and we greet the cool night air.
Edward is practically bouncing beside me, his fingers twisting nervously with mine as we rise in a mirrored elevator to the twentieth floor – a task which required him to swipe a key card into a slot on the panel beside the regular buttons. Despite my multiple attempts to get him to tell me what he's up to, his lips remain tightly sealed, although at this point, I'm fairly certain I know.
The elevator dings and opens, a playful smile taking over his face while he holds the door and motions for me to walk through. The sound of my heels hitting a pale coloured hardwood floor echoes to us as the elevator closes behind him.
I turn my head to the bank of floor to ceiling windows on the opposite side of the room that face the mountains and the harbour, my breath hitching at the sight. I cross to the windows, my dress making a swooshing noise that sounds extremely loud in the empty room.
I lean against one of the windows, watching as the lights of downtown Vancouver flicker below me. It's absolutely stunning… a multi-million dollar view.
I turn back to see him standing on the bottom step of a wide staircase, looking extremely anxious and holding his hand out to me. I walk to him and he grips my hand, wordlessly climbing the stairs.
He stops and stands to the side as I'm greeted to another massive and empty room with vaulted ceilings, more hardwood floors and windows that cover one entire side. Its awe inspiring, and I know immediately that this is Edward's new studio.
"What do you think?" he asks finally, taking a few tentative steps to me.
"It's incredible. I don't even have the words. It's just…"
"Ours." A smile plays on his lips as he waits for my reaction.
My heart stops beating. "Ours?" I ask, blinking up at him.
He takes both of my hands in his and stares at me. "I can't live at my old place, and I can't keep painting in your living room. This is close to your work- you can still walk there, if you want. There are jogging paths right outside the door, and downtown is right there if we want to go out," he says quickly, as if he's rhyming off some rehearsed list that he's made or something.
He turns me so we are both looking out the windows, his arms wrapping tightly around my waist from behind. "Imagine waking up to this every morning." He rests his head on my shoulder and kisses my neck.
I turn and cup his face. "I imagine waking up to you every morning, already. It doesn't matter where it is."
He smirks and pulls on my arm again, taking me reluctantly out of the room and down a wide hallway. He flicks on a light and walks backwards into the room, coaxing me with him.
"Hmmm. Interesting that a bed is the only piece of furniture in the place," I note, my shoes sinking into plush carpet as I pass a massive king-sized bed that faces a set of panoramic windows.
"There are some lights and tables, too," he says, laughing. "There's also this." He flicks on a light and a soft glow illuminates a massive white deep oval tub that sits in the middle of the bathroom, if that's what you want to call it. The room and the tub are more like a work of art. I run my fingers along the cool marble of the tub, my eyes falling to the familiar amber bottles that Renee uses to store whatever healing oils she wants me to try. I raise an eyebrow to him.
"Renee thought that you would need them, and to be honest, there are way too many fucking bubble bath choices. I thought my head was going to explode in all those stores, so I asked her."
I laugh and notice the intricate drying rack that he had one of his artist friends make, leaning against the picture window in front of the tub. I gently run my fingers over the groves and finally raise my eyes to his, feeling the emotion start to overtake me. "You brought this with you?" I ask, my voice shaky.
He nods his head. "What do you think?" he asks quietly, biting down on his lip. How can he possibly be nervous about this? Does he really have no idea how I feel about him?
"I think you're amazing," I answer firmly.
"I meant about this… moving here… you and me. A fresh start. I think we deserve that, don't you?"
I move slowly to him and wrap my hand around his tie, pulling on it and coaxing him forward until his lips hover over mine. "Maybe we should try it out. You know… see how it feels in the morning, and then, we can decide," I say brazenly.
He lifts his eyebrows to me. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Oh, I don't have any clothes or my stuff for my—"
He places his fingers over my lips, silencing me. "I have all the soaps and lotions, and Rose and Alice packed you some clothes. There's a bag in the closet."
I pull harder on his tie and his eyes widen at me. "Pretty damn sure of yourself, aren't you?"
"I was hoping," he mutters, his hands sinking into my hair as his lips press to mine, a contented moan escaping from him. He deepens the kiss, his tongue moving frantically almost, desperate for contact, my hands automatically flying into his hair.
He slides one hand down my back and around my waist, lifting me straight up and back to the colossal bed. He lowers me gently onto it, the massive duvet practically swallowing me as the pillows shift behind us.
I giggle against his lips as my hand falls to a faux fur blanket beside me. He pulls back, gazing at me in amusement. "Where did you get this?" I ask, holding the white synthetic blanket up to him.
He rolls his eyes. "Alice. She got all these pillows, too. Do you really like this many?" he asks, reaching above me and whipping one off the bed to the floor.
He laughs and runs his hand down the front of my dress, his expression shifting instantly. "You're beautiful. This dress is…" He struggles for the words as his mouth trails down the column of my neck.
"Coming off, I hope?" I breathe.
He hovers over me, propping himself up on his elbows. "Most definitely," he says seductively, his hands trailing down the front of the dress. "Silk… it feels good on you."
"Better off," I say, already writhing under him.
He chuckles and moves off the bed, standing at the side and slowly removes his jacket, letting it fall to the floor. He tucks his fingers into the knot of his grey tie and he starts to loosen it, his eyes never leaving mine.
"Stop," I whisper. I stand up and gently remove his fingers, slowly undoing the tie and then pulling it off his neck. I wrap it around my neck and then start on the buttons on his black shirt, sliding them slowly through the holes while his breathing deepens.
"You're undressing me," he says, his fingers trailing down my arm.
"You catch on fast."
His hand slides around my waist and up my back, his fingers finding the zipper at the top of my dress. He quirks an eyebrow and lowers the zipper slowly, stopping at the small of my back. He flattens his warm hand over my skin and slips it to my ass, cupping it and groaning while his eyes slide shut.
I press towards him and finish with the final button on his shirt, slowly parting the fabric and sliding it down his arms. I reach up and kiss him, his lips so soft and hungry, his chest heaving against mine.
He removes his hand from my behind and shakes the shirt off, quickly moving to the thick straps on my dress and lowering them, his mouth immediately finding my shoulder. "Bella…"
I remove the straps from my arms, the dress dropping in a pool at my feet. I step forward, out of the dress, and leave the shoes on. He swallows, his eyes drinking me in as I stand before him, nervously twirling his grey tie around my fingers.
His mouth drops open slightly, his shaky hand brushing my hair behind my shoulder. "I don't deserve you," he whispers, lowering his head and shutting his eyes.
My heart clenches, and I wrap my arms around his waist, pressing my chest against him. "Edward, open your eyes," I whisper. He complies and stares down at me, his expression so desperate and needy. I cup his face between my hands. "I love you, and I never want to hear you say that again. You deserve the world… you're everything to me... How can you not know that?"
"What did you just say?" he asks in disbelief, his voice raspy.
"I said a lot of things." His eyes search mine, wanting and hopeful. I smile up at him and as the lights from the Vancouver skyline flicker behind him, I repeat the words I've said nearly every night since he's stayed at my house. "I love you."
He shuts his eyes and launches his lips to mine, his arms wrapping around my waist. It's passionate, wild, intense… I can barely breathe. He groans and picks me up, vaulting to the bed where I land on my back.
"I love you," he murmurs into my ear, his entire body shaking. "I love you so fucking much." His lips move to mine urgently, his breath coming out in pants as he desperately pours his soul out. "I need you so much. You have no idea."
His fingers shake as they hover over the strap on my bra, his lips moving frantically to my shoulder. "Edward... I'm not going anywhere. I'm here, I'm yours," I whisper.
He moans against the fabric of my bra, slowing his movements, his touch less desperate, but still intense. He pulls back and stares down at me… pure, raw emotion. "I've missed this," he says softly.
I slide my hands up his back, feeling the hard defined lines in his shoulders, flattening my palms across his firm chest and down his strong arms, reveling in the fact that my simple touch causes him to moan and shut his eyes, like he's trying to soak in how it feels.
He slowly moves down in the bed and traces the fabric around my breasts, his fingers tickling my skin. I feel the heat rise, desire racing and turning while he gently coaxes me up and releases the clasp on the bra. He moves his fingers to the front, taking the middle of the bra between his thumb and index finger and gingerly pulls it off me.
I ease back down onto the bed, my chest heaving under him as he takes one side of his tie that's still around my neck and grazes it around my breast and over my nipple. "I want you, Bella. Everyday… just like this… in this bed… with me."
I moan at his words, arching my back to meet his lips as they slowly take one nipple in, his skillful fingers working the other. His mouth slides to the other nipple while his hand moves down to my stomach. He traces the top of my panties and then slowly sinks two of his fingers into me, starting an almost unbearable pattern, bringing me closer and closer with each delicious pass.
His lips trail to my stomach, the muscles tightening while he grinds his erection against me. "Feel what you do to me, baby."
"Edward, please," I whine, trying to arch my hips faster, desperate to feel him.
He slides his fingers out and hooks them around my panties, slowly inching them down. Once they've hit the floor, he moves beside me, kissing my thigh above my prosthetic. He quickly rids himself of his pants and his boxers and crawls back onto the bed, gently coaxing my legs apart.
He kisses and licks my thigh, moving down to the prosthetic, his fingers reverently tracing it before lifting my other leg up and over his shoulder. I gasp at the movement, fisting the sheets as he lowers his head and flattens his tongue over me. He works me into a virtual frenzy, his fingers teasing, his tongue pushing me further.
"Edwa…" I can't even say his name as my body ignites under him, my hands flying into his hair. I pull hard, causing him to moan louder.
He lifts his head to me and moves slowly up my body, his fingers leading the way until he's hovering over me. He kisses me deeply, his fingers tracing my thigh. "Standing?" he asks so quietly, I barely hear him.
"No," I breathe, shifting under him in anticipation. I want to feel normal, the way he always makes me feel.
"Bella, tell me if—"
I arch my hips towards him. "Make love to me, Edward. Like there's nothing holding you back… like I know you want to."
He drops his head to my shoulder and groans, shifting away from my prosthetic before easing into me. He stills, waiting for me to protest or something, I don't know, that's not even in the realm of possibility when he makes me feel this way… just alive and electric.
I move my hands to his ass and squeeze, causing him to take a sharp breath in. He pulls nearly all the way out and thrusts back in, my leg hitching around his waist. "Fuck, Bella," he grinds out, his pace quickening as he starts to lose himself. "You feel so amazing." His eyes clench shut, the veins in his neck straining as he thrusts harder and deeper.
I shift my prosthetic leg to the side, opening myself further. "I love you," he murmurs.
I arch to meet him, his hips flexing hard against me over and over… he's so deep, I'm filled completely. I want to hold onto this feeling and never let it go. The muscles in my thigh complain as we move together, his movements forceful. He moves his hand down my real leg and he bends it, so my knee almost touches my breast.
Opening his eyes, I can see the intensity, the emotion, the love and I feel the tears spill over. My breathing hitches, my entire body ignites, every muscle soaring and convulsing around him as I cry out from pure pleasure. He thrusts, and I feel him pulsate, his climax consuming him as he collapses on top of me.
He kisses my neck, brushing the hair from my face. "Are you okay?" he pants.
I run my hands up his strong back, my body tingling. "Yeah. I'd say so."
He shifts slightly so he's supporting his weight on his arms while he hovers over me, still twitching inside me. He runs his hand down my thigh, stopping at my prosthetic and lifting his eyebrows. "It's okay. I just need to get the right angle for it," I say.
"I'm sorry," he whispers, starting to ease out of me.
I push on his back and arch towards him. "Just means more practice," I mutter.
"Oh, really?" he asks, smirking down at me.
I laugh and he narrows his eyes at me. "I hope you're not laughing at me," he says darkly.
"No, just at something Mom said tonight."
He slides his hand up to the tie that's still hanging around my neck and circles it around my breast. "And what was that?"
"She was worried that you had… you know, problems in this department."
He snickers and lowers his lips to mine. "Oh, I can assure you. I don't have any problems in this department."
"I can feel that," I say, my eyes closing as he starts to move again.
"We better just make sure, right?" he mumbles.
We sit, facing each other on either side of the massive tub, the soothing scent of lavender filling the room. He picks up my foot and starts to massage deep circles on the instep. I shut my eyes and just enjoy it until an errant thought occurs to me.
"You know the woman who bought your painting, don't you?" I ask, staring back at him.
I feel his legs stiffen beside me. "Jessica Stanley. She bought the first painting I ever sold."
"Hmmm?" he asks, raising an eyebrow and moving his focused massage to my calf.
"Did you… I mean… forget it," I mumble, turning my head from him and looking out into the night sky.
"Do I sense a tone of jealousy?" he asks smugly.
"No!" I protest, splashing water at his chest.
He laughs and trails his skilled fingers up my leg. "No. I never slept with her. I was kind of surprised to see her tonight, actually. She and Jane were… close."
There's a name I didn't want to hear tonight, and now I'm sorry I asked him. "Well, she certainly went a long way to helping the Foundation. That was incredible tonight," I say sincerely.
"Yeah, I'd say tonight goes down in the books as one of top ten nights of my life."
"I'm so proud of you, your work… it's amazing, Edward."
"It's not because of the auction that tonight makes the top ten, Bella," he says, his voice dropping lower. "It's because of you."
I smile back at him and feel the heat rise in my face while he continues his delicious massage on my leg. A hazing fog starts to envelope me as the steam rises in the room. Every muscle in my body is sore and I've never felt more content or alive; two things I had convinced myself I'd never feel again.
He stops massaging and squeezes a continual stream of water from a thick washcloth onto my leg while the exhaustion of the last few weeks starts to take over. I feel like I could sleep for days and still be tired.
The therapy sessions I've had with Dr. Young have gone a long way in helping me to deal with what happened. Edward has only attended two of them with me, saying that painting is his ultimate release. I didn't fight him on it. Seeing him create with the passion and raw unbridled emotion that he has, I know he's right. Painting is cathartic for him, healing him in ways that I'm sure I'll never understand.
That doesn't mean he's over it. I know he has nightmares, even though he would never admit it. I wake up sometimes to him thrashing and crying out for me, the covers a jumbled mess on the floor. I simply curl into his side and hold him, his entire body relaxing into mine almost instantly as I run my fingers through his hair to calm him.
I've noticed my own changes; my hands gripping the steering wheel tightly if a car follows mine too closely at night… the return of the panic attack if I wake up alone in bed in the morning because Edward is already up and painting.
I know it's irrational and that Jane can't hurt us anymore. She's pled guilty and is facing intense psychiatric counseling and a long time locked away from the rest of the world. That doesn't mean I'm over it. I'm not sure either one of us will ever be completely over it.
"I've made a decision about the collection," he says, his voice stirring me from the edge of consciousness.
"You have?" I ask, lifting my head from the back of the tub and smiling at him.
He nods his head at me. "I'm going to show it like it is. I've thought a lot about what Riley said, and he's right. If I let someone else work on it and take away the smoke damage, what does that say about me? That I'm embarrassed? That I want to pretend like it didn't happen?" He furrows his brow. "I can't do that. Its part of my life, and yours, and I think showing it like it is will be liberating in a way. I want to hang them in the gallery and walk away, knowing that I'm ready to move on to a new phase of my life… of our life."
I nod my head at him, the emotion threatening to break through. "I think you're a very smart man," I manage to say.
"If I was smart, I would have seen what she was capable of," he argues.
"There's no way you could have seen it." He scowls at me and shakes his head. "You know, when she was standing in the bedroom… I thought that was my worst nightmare. Me being completely vulnerable."
"Bella, you don't have to—"
"I know I don't have to, but I need to. You can get your emotion out when you paint… you have an outlet. I can't do that." He smiles and squeezes my leg softly. "When I heard your voice in the studio just before I blacked out, that was worse than anything I could have ever imagined. To think that something horrible was going to happen to you, that you would risk your life to come back for me… that I might never see you again. That's my worst nightmare. Losing you."
He scoots towards me, the water sloshing as he wraps his arm around my waist and buries his face into my hair. "That's never going to happen," he whispers.
Later, I lay on my side, watching him sleep, a soft light from the moon, dancing over his body as his chest rises and falls. He has one arm resting over his head, the other draped across my back. I smile and lightly trace my index finger over the relaxed contours of his face, marveling at just how deep my feelings are for him. How he's changed my entire life.
Sometimes, life hands you a challenge that you're sure you'll never be able to meet. There are days when you feel like giving up, staying in bed and feeling sorry for yourself. There are days when you do just that. And then there are days like today that change you. When you realize that you've found the person who sees beyond the exterior and touches your soul.
I had started to think my life would just be a series of random happenings that meant nothing. Edward has taught me that even the moments of nothing can mean everything.
Edward would probably tell you that I saved him from a life that was spiraling out of control. I would tell you that he saved me from an empty and emotionless one.
I guess, the truth is, we saved each other.
Chapter End Notes:
Pics of the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre and the apartment are here:
Thank you for coming along on this journey with me.
This story has been an extremely cathartic experience. I've laughed and cried, and at one point almost pitched my laptop out the eighth floor window of my office building… yeah, sometimes I write at work- that's the way I roll.
I have received reviews that have made me cry happy tears, and some sad ones, too. I cherish each one of the reviews I've received. Whether you reviewed or not, if it produced a reaction, positive or negative, I suppose the story did what I wanted it to.
I wrote this story for every person who has ever felt like they weren't good enough, ever faced adversity or discrimination, ever felt like giving up or was told they couldn't do it, ever thought they were alone and would never find anyone. For people who, for whatever reason, have built up a wall around themselves for fear of letting anyone in, and for those people who take the time to look beyond the exterior and find the unique soul hidden underneath.
Through it all, I have had been blessed to meet several wonderfully talented authors, writers, readers, reviewers, and supporters that I am blessed to call my friends: xrxdanixrx, MizzezPattinson, coachlady1, robbsweetangel, itsange_, Lattecoug, FangMom, Mrs_Boyscout, cullenscougar, hc4metal who was my first review, readergoof, craving2read, nightline, emozing, HockeyChick, Robsblueeyes, robskitten, nns813, Boydblog, Belindella, azucena34, kazbar65, Nyomixx, the Twitterloves, the list goes on.
I'm not dropping off the face of the earth. I still have two stories that I write, Finding Forever (a RPF) and Of Mustangs & Men with my dear MizzezPattinson, both found on Twilighted. I also have another fic which is brewing and will be on its way soon. As Dani will tell you, I like to stay several chapters ahead, and so it may be a couple of weeks before that fic posts.
Thank you again for reading and reviewing. It means the world to me.
As always, let me know your thoughts.