The Face I Can't Forget
By RosaBella75 & TwiliteAddict
TwiliteAddict: No shit, we are actually posting this chapter! The last update was how long ago?
RosaBella75: *hangs head* Nine months. I guess it better be one hell of a good chapter.
TwiliteAddict: Actually, I think it's so damn sweet, I had to floss and brush my teeth so I didn't develop a cavity.
RosaBella75: I always said you were the queen of lemon cake! Dearest readers, please enjoy the concluding chapter of The Face I Can't Forget…
"Edward... I love you. I always have even when it was from afar!" I began to shake and my knees felt like they were made of Jell-O.
Just as the walls felt like they had completely closed in on me, and everything began fading to black… he was there. Edward had closed the space between us and caught me in his firm, warm embrace, which I willingly melted into.
"Bella," he spoke expressively into my hair, "I love you, too. I love you."
From behind us, the hallway burst into boisterous cheers and applause as our curious on-lookers were swept up in our not-so-personal moment of honesty and joy.
"Way to go, you two!" Emmett's heart-felt congratulatory words filled my ears.
I felt Edward chuckle, and pulled away from his chest to look at my best friends.
"Awww. It's such a happy ending!" Alice squeaked as she wiped her eyes on the bountiful fabric making up the puffy sleeves of Emmett's shirt.
"Pixie Stick? What are you doing here? Did you have something to do with this?"
"That's Alice," I beamed, "my priceless roommate!"
"And take a look at her partner in crime! Awesome Romeo costume, Emmett." Edward nodded his approval. "Did you score a Juliet?" He grinned knowingly.
"Maybe, just maybe." Emmett glanced down at the emotional Alice, slinging an oversized arm around her petite shoulders.
"Oh, goodie! All is well in lover-land!" the stage manager sneered. "NOW are you ready to grace us with your performance, Mr. Cullen?" The man was obviously not the sensitive type.
Edward looked at me as if waiting for my permission.
With a smile I couldn't hold back, I told him, "Knock 'em dead, Maestro!"
Determination filled his clear, bright eyes as he placed his hands on my cheeks, planting the most heated kiss on my lips. Heavenly!
He turned and marched confidently out onto the stage.
The manager abruptly closed the door on my still grinning face. But I lingered there. Along with Alice, Emmett, and our new found well-wishers.
We all listened together.
And Edward played flawlessly...
~~8 years later, Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle~~
"Penny for your thoughts?"
Edward's voice is soft and tender. I smile at his curiosity, but I don't turn away from the hotel window to face him, instead I gaze fondly at the sight that has captured my fascination – just as it did eight years ago. I can hardly believe we have come full circle. Same place – same room.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Bard. Have we met before?" I can feel the teasing glint shining in my eyes.
I want to see his reaction, so I turn my focus away from the stunning lights of Benaroya Hall to his face, perfectly reflected in the window as he stands behind me.
He's smiling too.
"Yes, Mrs. Bard, I believe we know each other quite intimately."
Edward approaches and brushes my hair to the side before placing numerous, whisper-light kisses on my bare neck. My knees weaken. His arms snake around my waist and pull me into him.
I know where this is going...
"Stop!" I turn quickly to break the seduction before the rest of me also weakens to the point of no return. Swatting at him, I reprimand, "You need to stay focused! There will be time for 'play' later."
"But you look so beautiful. Tempting."
He moves in for another try, but I scoot away. "If we start this, I promise, you will be late for your performance."
Edward grins widely at my playful admonishment disguised as a threat, but he behaves, placing his arms rigidly at his sides. To soften the blow, I reach out to straighten the bowtie of his tuxedo – my favorite one with the incredibly long, sexy tails.
He exhales and I can finally hear the hint of nervousness I've been expecting to hear for some time. I step back and wait.
"Bella, what if I mess up?"
"You won't." I wrap my arms around his neck. "You're ready. I have complete faith in you."
He looks doubtful.
Edward has worked incredibly hard to make a name for himself professionally as a pianist. It hasn't been an easy living, and several times it looked as though we might have to relocate to find him employment. More times than I can count, he threatened to completely leave his dream behind for a more "practical" job. But what kind of wife would I be if I let my husband give up on his dream?
Especially after he has made my dreams come true.
Yes, I did take the generous financial support he offered to fund my college education. That is to say, I took only what I needed to pay for my degree. I fully intended to pay him back, which he did agree to, sans interest. Although I must confess, this agreement was made under duress – of a sort. I should have known better than to conduct binding financial negotiations in bed while in the arms of my very generous benefactor/lover.
I finished my Bachelor's degree in Education, going to school year-round in order to graduate early. I went on to get my Master's in Education, and secured a job teaching high school English in the Edmonds School District in the city of Lynnwood, Washington. The reasonable three or so hour trip to Forks made it easy for Edward and me to travel home frequently, yet have a private life of our own.
We have been married three wonderful years.
But enough about me! This night is all about my gifted musician.
This night Edward will be the featured solo pianist for the Seattle Orchestra. I have listened to him practice Grieg's Piano Concerto in A minor so many times that the piece has come to feel like a third person in our marriage, breathing and existing with us, subtly threading itself into our minds, and underscoring our movements.
Life, love and music. How beautifully they wove together in our shared life.
And although this night was to celebrate his accomplishments, I did have one little surprise I was saving for later … when we could be alone.
Edward took in a deep cleansing breath. "Shall we?"
He extended his arm, and I gratefully took it. "Yes, I'm starving!"
We had arranged to meet our parents at Chez Shea restaurant near the hotel before the performance. We hoped Alice and Emmett would be able to join us as well.
It was so wonderful to share a meal, the Swans and Cullens all dressed in their finest. It was Carlisle who set the tone for the evening, ordering several bottles of champagne and presenting a toast.
"To my son, Edward, may he enjoy much success and happiness in his musical career with the Seattle Orchestra. And, as Esme has always reminded me, behind every successful man, is an extraordinary woman," Carlisle smiles and nods in my direction. "Cheers to Bella and Edward!"
"Cheers!" Esme, Charlie, his new wife Sue, Renee, and Phil all raise their glasses. Their genuine smiles bring a tear to my eye. I quickly set down my glass of champagne and dab at my eyes with my cloth napkin.
"Is something wrong?" my overly attentive husband leans over to ask in a hushed voice.
"No, I'm sorry; I've just been so emotional lately. But they are tears of joy. Isn't it wonderful to have our all family together?"
"Yes, it is," Edward agrees, a warm smile replacing the look of concern on his face.
"Hey, we're here to crash the party!" a baritone voice booms over the jovial table conversation. We all turn to see Emmett and Alice approaching the table.
Alice and I squeal in delight as we hug each other. I was worried she would be working late and would miss the evening completely.
"You made it just in time. Dad has the alcohol flowing, and you still have time to order dinner," Edward joked with his brother.
"Come here you," Emmett laughs as he peels me from Alice's arms to embrace me into a big bear hug, lifting my feet off the floor.
"Hey, don't damage the wife, Em. We've got plans for later tonight."
"I bet you do!" Emmett wags his eyebrows before setting me down to shake Edward's hand.
"No touchie!" Edward backs sharply away from Emmett's outstretched hand. "I'm not taking any chances with these hands getting injured. Not tonight."
"Whoa!" Emmett exclaims winking at me. "I guess he really does have some plans in store for later tonight! Sounds like Edward will be tickling more than just the ivories."
Even after all these years, Emmett still had a unique ability to make me blush…
"Emmett, sit down and shut up before you embarrass yourself!" Alice elbows him, and taking his cue, he dutifully pulls out Alice's chair for her to sit.
"Yes, dear," the hulk-of-a-man mumbles with feigned humbleness, before looking over at me with twinkling eyes from behind Alice's back. "Those two words have saved my marriage numerous times."
"Sorry we're late," Alice apologizes after rolling her eyes indulgently at her husband. "I just couldn't find Em a shirt without a juice stain on it."
"Hey, being a stay-at-home dad requires certain sacrifices," Emmett defended.
"I know damn well you are not feeding our kids in your dress clothes!" Alice shoots back. "You stained them on purpose so you wouldn't have to wear them."
The table erupts into laughter as Emmett turns a light shade of red proving Alice had indeed caught him in a fib.
"Well the next time you launch a men's clothing line, make it less stuffy, more casual. Something to reflect my personal style," Emmett defends.
"What? Coordinating boxers and wife-beaters? Or maybe … tights?" Alice quips quickly bringing back to mind the infamous night Emmett dressed up like Romeo.
The whole table is laughing, and soon Alice and Emmett join in.
"Okay you two," Carlisle says as he taps his half-empty glass to gather everyone's attention, "grab a glass of champagne. Let the old man say a few more words."
A bottle was quickly passed and poured. Again Carlisle raises his glass. "Happy belated wedding anniversary to Alice and Emmett. Four years! Honestly Alice, I thought you'd kill him after just one."
"Here, here!" Edward responds raising his glass high. "A toast to Saint Alice!"
Emmett and Alice entwine their arms and sip from their glasses before locking lips to the sound of cat-calls and whistles.
"Get a room," Edward strongly suggests.
"I've got one bro. Hopefully it's right next to yours so we can 'keep score'."
I turn bright red this time. Edward and Emmett think it's hilarious and "manly" in some demented way to keep track of how many times in one night they each can make their wife climax. Alice says the competition can only benefit us, and although I do whole-heartedly agree, having the secret competition revealed to my father, step-mother, and in-laws … it's utterly humiliating!
Edward, knowing my preference for privacy, rubs my leg under the table, and kindly changes the subject…
"Em, our room location is top secret. By the way, when are you and Alice heading out on that LA vacation you've been tweeting about?"
I listen as the conversation ebbs and flows around children, grandchildren, vacations, jobs, regrets, and dreams. However, all too soon, our meal is done, and Edward leans over to tell me, "it's time."
He stands and all eyes are on him. All the talking ceases. It seems everyone is sharing in this momentous moment with us. Edward breaks the silence - and the ice. "Well, I'll just be heading down the street for a bit. See you all at breakfast tomorrow?"
The table erupts in protests and everyone quickly downs their drinks and rises from the table. Carlisle and Esme graciously pick up the tab, while the rest of us head to the limo parked outside – my gift to Edward. We all notice the bottle of champagne nestled in its chilling container of ice, but we all know that bottle is for later.
On the drive, Edward begins to subtly wring his hands in his lap. I set my hand over them to still them.
It's a short drive to Benaroya Hall and we file out. I feel a twinge of nervousness as this is where Edward has to part from the group.
"Because of the lights, I won't be able to see you," Edward says softly as he pulls me close before we part.
"You know I'll be there. I'll be the woman with the biggest, proudest smile on her face. Just picture it. You know what it looks like."
"True, I see it every time I tell you I love you. Bella, I love you."
I smile and hug him, trying to again hide my tears.
"Go on, get back there with the rest of the orchestra before they start to think you are a no-show," Charlie nudges Edward. My father takes my arm once Edward releases me. "I am going to escort the two prettiest ladies to their seats," he announces proudly as he beams at me on his one arm and Sue on the other. But then my father stutters, "Um, no offense Alice and Esme. In fact, Esme did I mention that you look absolutely lovely tonight … and Alice …"
Esme pats Charlie's back, smiling her own lovely smile, letting him know he is off the hook. "No offense taken, Charlie."
By now, Edward has disappeared out of my sight and my stomach lurches. "He'll do wonderful," Charlie soothes my nerves. He always was in tune with my emotions somehow, maybe because we were so much alike in that department.
We take our seats in the audience section of the hall allotted for family and friends of the musicians. My heart is now pounding in my ears as the lights dim.
The performers tune their instruments, and the conductor takes his place. It is Edward who is last to enter the stage. The applause is polite as my beautiful husband flips his tails and takes his seat on the shiny black piano bench, his fingers poised over the keys. I believe I took my last breath at that point …
The performance is a blur in my mind. I never took my eyes off of Edward until the end when Alice nudges me and squeals, "Oh my God, Bella! He knocked it out of the park!"
The applause is exuberant and Edward is taking a bow. I look at Alice's excited face, and my tears spill.
"Now, don't go getting all blubber faced! You'll make your mascara run." She reaches into her clutch and pulls out a crumpled, probably already used, Kleenex. Alice wipes my tears in a much practiced motherly fashion. "You know, you have turned on the waterworks a couple times tonight. You really should have had some champagne to calm yourself …" Alice stops midsentence, and my intuitive friend connects the dots. "You didn't drink at all tonight. Oh my God! Are you …?"
I can see the red rise in Alice's face as she fights valiantly to contain the shriek that is trying to get out. She turns so red, I'm afraid she is going to pop!
"Breathe, Alice." I grin at her. Seeing her excitement and knowing Edward will be satisfied with his performance suddenly makes me feel much lighter and in control of my emotions.
"Let's go retrieve Edward," she suggests, giddy as all hell and I wonder if she can keep the secret long enough for me to tell Edward in private.
( ~*~ )
This time it is Emmett who makes the toast once we are all assembled in the limo outside of the concert hall.
"To my brother, who has finally lived up to that snobby, moody persona that drove me crazy all these years and really turned out to be damn good at what he does. Good luck living with him now, Bella!"
The tension is gone, and we all enjoy a few trips around the block drinking champagne before returning to the hotel. The night has been magical, but everyone seems quite spent. We all willingly retire to our separate rooms.
Once behind closed doors, Edward scoops me up in his arms and spins me around. "We did it, my love!"
"You did it," I correct him.
"No, 'we'. Remember, I almost didn't go to that audition in college, but you came to the rescue? And how many times did I want to give up after that? No, reaching this goal tonight was definitely a team effort. You and me."
My throat constricts and I can feel the sting of tears. Dammit! The evening has been nothing short of perfect, except for my crying spurts. I blink rapidly to keep the tears at bay.
"Are you tired?" Edward asks, his voice goes up in pitch as he says the word "tired". I know exactly what he is hinting at.
"Hmmm." I decide to tease him. I look around the room and shrug. "No flowers, no champagne, no spa treatment … I feel a bit let down. My last stay here definitely had more perks."
"Oh, Mrs. Cullen, allow me to make up for my oversights." Edward removes his coat, whips off his bowtie, and unbuttons his shirt.
His cologne dances into my senses and sends delicious twinges throughout my body. I can't help but reach into his open shirt to caress his chest, briefly, but thoroughly, exploring my second favorite part of his body. My hands guide his shirt over his shoulders and down his arms as I place my lips to his fragrant, chiseled chest.
Edward's hands work on the pins holding my hair up. It tumbles down and he runs his hands through my tresses, shaking them free. He pulls me forcefully toward him, arousing me even more, and attacks my neck with his mouth. I moan wantonly and throw my head back as he nips, licks, and kisses the tender flesh.
My hands have now wandered to his waistband, but Edward picks me up and carries me to the bed. He sets me gently on the posh down comforter which brings visions of the clouds in heaven to my mind.
Edward kneels next to me to untie my wrap dress, and I lay before him in my bra and panties. We never bothered to turn off the lights in the room, and I'm glad for that as I gaze upon my shirtless lover.
"What?" he asks.
"You're sorta beautiful, you know."
"Yes, Emmett told me that quite often growing up." Edward rolls his eyes before adding, "He liked to call me 'The Pretty.'"
I laugh at Edward's chagrin. "Yes, that sounds like something Em would do, but I don't mean in appearance. I mean in here." I place my hand over his strong thudding heart.
I seemed to have caught him off-guard with my comment, and he pauses, placing his talented hands gently on my cheeks. His lips pucker just slightly while his chin quivers, and I immediately recognize his "I'm-not-gonna-cry" face.
"Bella, I owe you everything," his voice cracks. "You have given me so much, how could I ever repay you for all that you have given me?"
This was it. It was time…
I take his hands from my face. I slide them down over my chest (his eyes light up a bit, of course), then further down to cover the area just below my belly button. I cover his hands with mine. "Tell me you have room in your heart to love another …"
For the slightest moment, his eyebrows furrow, and then they spring up so high they are lost in his tousled mane of hair. He's speechless – and then he starts to hyperventilate.
"Oh my….oh my, my, my, my, my. Oh! Bella!" Edward is panting. I'm laughing.
I can see he's working on putting thoughts and words together, but his eyes are so wide! I laugh all the harder. At last he spits it out in question form: "I'm gonna be a dad?"
"Yes! Congratulations!" I throw my arms up over my head to mock how long it took him to get it out there. Edward springs to his feet on the bed. Thank God it was one of those special mattresses that didn't transfer movement because Edward was now jumping on the bed! No doubt I would have been bounced right off a regular mattress.
"I'm gonna be a dad, Bella!" he shouts, all but screaming like Alice in his enthusiasm.
"Ah, yeah, I was kinda in on the ground floor on that news, Edward," I joke.
Edward is suddenly on his knees next to me. He's kissing me frantically all over my face as he squeezes me in his arms. "You are so incredible," he breathes out between kisses. "We're going to be a family!"
"I love you, Edward," I squeak out in response, so completely overjoyed and overwhelmed by his exuberant response my voice constricts, joyful tears once again threatening to spill.
But then he stills. He looks into my eyes, and I see his mood shift. His voice is deeper, lustful. "I love you."
My smile fades and my lips part as a stream of electricity runs through my body to my toes. Edward's eyes become hooded and my stomach does a back flip in eager anticipation. Now it's me who is panting.
Without breaking his gaze, he lays me down on the bed, gliding his fingers over my body – down my cheek, my neck, between my breasts, and over my stomach. My skin springs into goosebumps and he smiles crookedly. "So responsive," he purrs in a low voice.
"Don't tease me," I rebuke him. His penchant for extended foreplay is equally torturous as it is pleasurable, and I can tell by the look in his eyes this is not going to be a "quickie."
"You mean don't do this?" He trails a long finger down my belly, over my thigh, and makes light circles behind my knee. My muscles tense and my mouth goes dry. "Or this?" He takes my hand. My breath escapes me as he presses his lips into my palm, lingering kisses burn into my flesh. When I let out a whimper, he moves his mouth to my wrist and … bites me.
Immediately, I feel cascading responses between my legs.
"Oh, God," I murmur. My back arches and I close my eyes to enjoy the thrilling sensations he creates in my body. When I open them, he has straddled my hips and is hovering over me, his green eyes sparkling. Now my heart rate matches my rapid respirations.
Damn, this man owns me.
"How incredible is it that you took my physical love for you and created life?"
My mind jolts with the meaning of his words. Two people, linked together through the motions of lovemaking. Their bodies creating a living embodiment of that love – a child.
I bite my lower lip, not wanting to spoil our romance with tears. Edward leans down, his biceps flexing, and sucks my lower lip out from between my teeth.
Oh, Shit! I mentally moan.
With the flip of the switch, my mind discards the sappy emotions and snaps back into full desire mode. Edward is pressing his upper body against mine and I arch into him wantonly. He ravages my neck with his wet, hot mouth and I purr in response. In an almost magical sleight of hand, he undoes my bra and continues voracious, hungry kisses over my breasts.
Again, my hands drift to his waistband following it along to locate the button and zipper while he continues his passionate assault on my upper body, alternating between kisses, licks, and well-placed bites.
My brain is totally clouded by the haze of lustful need. In this room where we first admitted our mistakes, pride, and blunders and tried to make up for lost time, I am once again lost in the bliss that is my Edward's touch. It is especially right for this to be in the same bed where we first knew our love was real and our bodies shared the wonders of intimacy for the first time. It all makes perfect sense and is especially exhilarating as it validates all the hard work it has taken to maintain our happily ever after.
Edward knows my brain has been flooded, and he assists my fumbling fingers. As I take in the beauty of his body, he removes the rest of his clothes and I welcome him back to me with open arms. He removes my panties before resting on top of me, melting into my embrace. It all feels so right.
"Make love to me, Bella. Show me your love for me," he breathes into my ear.
My body rises to meet his and we become one. Our movements are fluid and we glide together like two graceful dancers moving in time to a glorious melody written just for us; the choreography uniquely our own.
Our sporadic words are hushed and sweet, but increasingly urgent as our tempo crescendos.
He plays my body as skillfully as the keys of his piano. And he interprets the cues to my satisfaction as easily as musical notes on a page. The gathering tension threatens to overwhelm me and I call out to him. My nails dig into the damp flesh of his back and I cling to him as I feel myself blissfully being pulled over, under, and through.
Edward holds me close as my climax takes my breath away. I can hear him whispering words of love into my ear, but my body hums too loudly to take make sense of what he is saying. Still, his tender voice reaches me and my love for him swells in my chest … and in my belly.
Still savoring the ripples of pleasure trickling outward to my fingers and toes, I begin our rhythm again. Edward moves along with me, allowing me to lead him in the final steps of our dance. My hips roll and I imagine myself pulling him in deeper within my body. I want all of him; nothing more … nothing less.
Edward begins to tremble. His breathing comes in long gasps and I can feel his body tense.
"Yes, my love," I encourage him, my hands moving to his face. His eyes are squeezed tightly closed, but the feel of my hands, the smell of my skin tempts him into opening them. They blaze green as brilliant as emeralds and gaze upon me with fiery intensity. He is beautiful as he tumbles over the edge and free falls into waves of crashing release.
Edward slowly collapses and I hold him as he recovers. I run my fingers through his mussed hair and take my turn whispering words of love to my one and only lover.
When his breathing returns to normal, he shifts his body and pulls me into his side. I snuggle up to his warm, bare chest. Before long, his fingers are tracing circles over my abdomen. It's almost hypnotizing, and I start to drift into sleep.
"How about a quick shower with me, love?" He asks.
I smile into his skin as fond memories from eight years ago come drifting back to me. "Um, I remember the last time we showered together in this room. You got drunk on champagne and I ended up getting screwed on the bathroom floor!"
"Hey!" Edward winces and feigns hurt. "I did ask you out for a date after that! Besides, it's a very nice floor. Marble I believe."
I shake my head and roll my eyes. "Go to sleep, Maestro. It's been a big day for you."
"True. I'll never forget it. Today, I realized I have all I ever wished for."
"You did play magnificently."
"I meant being your husband … and becoming a father."
I drift off to sleep with the biggest smile on my face. In the morning, Edward and I share our blessed news and the family toasted with mimosas over breakfast at the hotel restaurant.
We eat with excitement while Alice and Emmett text with their babysitter, Charlie and Sue buzz about staying with us when the baby arrives, and Carlisle and Esme debate whose office should be turned into a playroom for all the grandchildren.
Just as we all finish eating and the waitress is gathering credit cards to settle our checks, Edward discreetly slides something small under the edge of my plate. He winks as I look at him with curiosity. Of course, with my curiosity piqued, I immediately retrieve it.
I look at him quizzically when I realize it was a folded paper napkin.
"Open it," he says quietly.
I do. Scrawled in pen are the words: Bella, love is a constant guide to us as we move through life. If I am wrong about love, then I never felt anything worthwhile … and nobody has been in love. So are my feelings for you.
It is sighed with one letter: "E"
I recognize the verse immediately. It is from the letter he had placed in my locker all those years ago. The one I initially tossed aside. Despite our "difficulties," we still managed to find our way to just where we needed to be. My heart feels full to bursting as it soaks in his perfectly selected words.
How lucky I am to have the face he could never forget.
RosaBella75: *sigh* I just love the Bella and Edward in this story! And Alice and Emmett are quite the funny pair!
TwiliteAddict: Hmm. Kinda like us! *hugs RB* I had a great time creating this story with you. I'm sad it's finally over, but so glad it started by helping raise money for a worthy cause.
RosaBella75: But mostly we'd like to thank the readers who have supported this story over the long haul, and the new readers who have come to it for reading. Although the story is done, we are still around and would love to hear your comments, thoughts, etc.
TwiliteAddict: *smiles sheepishly* Can I plug my current story?
RosaBella75: You know you will no matter what I say …
TwiliteAddict: *bounces excitedly* If you like a little darkness before your HEA, check out life inside the Volturi castle and read my current WIP Future Imperfect (RosaBella, of course, is one of my betas!). Now, I know you are dying to say it, so go ahead…
RosaBella75: *whispers* Remember, the review button? It's still your friend…