Best Christmas ever! I couldn't get that thought out of my mind as I lay in bed waiting for Bella to wake up. She said yes, we gave the social climbers something to really gossip about, love the motorcycles, and my family couldn't be happier for me. Definitely, best Christmas ever!
The paper Christmas morning had pictures from the Open House and was full of speculation of what exactly happened in the music room. Both company rep's received calls from several papers wanting verification that I had indeed proposed. The rep's could say with all honesty they had no idea what happened but would issue a statement as soon as they were allowed. Only Jules and the Editor-in-Chief of the Seattle Times called Bella at the house looking for confirmation. She laughed out 'no comment' and hung up on them.
The next day the media stepped up their game. The Society pages that morning were full of pictures of Bella and I, articles rehashing what they knew of our relationship so far. Then there were pictures of us arriving at the Open House and quotes from several guests about what they saw and what they thought happened. We received several calls from the gate about reporters wanting to talk to us…uummm…no.
Unbeknownst to Bella, I contacted Jules on my own. She was meeting me at office in two days. I was giving her the scoop of a lifetime with one stipulation, she couldn't publish anything until January 2. She was going to get all the details of the next week before even Bella, but I wanted uninterrupted time in Scotland and that required telling the story beforehand.
Several persistent national paparazzi have taken to camping out in front of the gate and the Cullen office building in hopes of talking to one of us. Stephen upped security in public so that was never a possibility. They must have thought I would be the easier of us to actually talk to because they rushed the car when I arrived to talk to Jules. William, Grey, and a beast of a man, he put Emmett to shame, named Butch were with me. I heard William warning them away, but there is one in every crowd. I was ignoring them, moving towards the building when it happened.
"I said, step away from Mr. Cullen." Grey said in a soft but deadly voice to the man he had on the ground.
"Really Cullen, resorting to violence." The man yelled at me from the sidewalk.
"They told you to back off, you should have backed off." I told him without breaking my stride. I did notice the others giving us a wide berth while shouting their questions.
She basically interviewed me for an hour before sitting back, staring at me. "Wow. I never expected anything of this nature. Bella doesn't have a clue about any of it?" I shook my head. "You'll give me a list of people that helped make this possible and I can talk to them?"
"Once we are on the plane to Scotland you can talk to anyone you like. You can even say that I gave this interview, after we are on the plane. Everyone will be clamoring to talk to you once this goes public." She looked slightly confused. "They won't be able to talk to Bella or I and my family has no idea what is happening."
"Mmm-Hmm, very few people are in the know and they all live in Chicago. Chicago just treats us better overall than Seattle, I won't take the chance that something gets out about this before I want it to and that means keeping even my family in the dark."
"Not a problem, I have enough to run a base story the day after you leave. I can talk to people and run a more in depth story or two the day after that." She was talking more to herself than me, still, I felt the need to answer.
"Bella trust you Jules, do whatever you think is best."
"Thank you Edward, I won't let you or Bella down." We shook hands and she looked like she was on top of the world when she walked out of my office.
That was the pleasant part of my day. The unpleasant part arrived after lunch in the form of the FBI, Aro had been spotted in Seattle. The leak had been identified, a low-level tech that needed the money James was paying him. He now had a permanent babysitter with him 24/7 and was feeding James false information that hopefully will finally lead to Aro's capture. Once that occurred James and Mrs. Cope would be taken into custody as well as the FBI guy.
We had been discussing what to do about the Denali's. With Tanya marrying Felix and other little things it was obvious they were involved but no one knew to what extent or how to prove their involvement. His effect on the company would be limited, especially with Bella holding more shares now, so what benefit did the marriage give him? We had people looking into it but so far they hadn't found anything. Regardless of what was found we were looking into ways to force the Denali's to forfeit their shares, criminal activity against the company would be the easiest way but not the only way.
While I was in the office Tuesday Bella was visiting Hope House and one of the shelters that funneled residents to Hope House. Stephen didn't allow her to do this on a regular basis for security reasons but a drop in was approved, surprising us both. Bella never complained but judging by her reaction when she was given the okay to go, she missed doing this more than I realized.
We were due to leave in two days and my family would ask if we had considered the wedding every time we were with them. I would laugh and tell them not to worry about that they needed to worry about coming to Chicago for New Year's. What I didn't tell them was that things were taking care of themselves with the wedding.
The night before we were flying back I was having the best dream. We were in the bedroom at Swan Manor, there was a fire crackling, the light from it and the full moon were the only light in the room. My motorcycle was in the middle of the room and Bella was spread out perfectly on it, ass on the edge of the seat, back arching with the curve of the bike, head on the gas tank, and hands hanging onto the handlebars for dear life. I was straddling the back tire, her legs on my forearms, my hands holding on to her hips, and pounding into her, driving us both to a mind blowing climax.
Ring, Ring! Ring, Ring! What the fuck, I think as I am pulled from one of my favorite dreams. I groggily reach for my phone only to realize mine isn't ringing. I hear Bella patting her hand on her night stand as I look the alarm clock, 3am. Who the hell is calling her at 3am.
"No, no Stephanie, it's fine really. I promise it's fine, tell me what the problem is?"
I sit up in bed and she is just listening. As a few minutes pass I notice she is getting upset and getting out of bed.
"No it's fine really. Of course I mean it. It will take me 10 minutes to get dressed and organized, so I can be at the house in about 45 minutes. I'll make the necessary phone calls on the way, do not let CPS leave with him or the police."
I follow her into the closet and started getting dressed when I realize we will be leaving the house. She finishes the phone call as she is walking out and hits the intercom button, Anthony answers.
"Anthony, I need to go to Hope House, it's an emergency. I'm on my way down."
She snapped her phone shut and walks into the bathroom. "I promise to explain everything in the car Edward, but we need to get there as quickly as possible."
"That's fine." I call out and I think she was surprised to see me ready and waiting for her when she walks back into the room.
We hurried downstairs to find Anthony, Grey and William waiting for us. Once we load into the cars Bella explains the phone call to Anthony while the others listen on speakerphone.
"Stephanie from Hope House called me. Kelly, one of the residents that is getting ready to move into her own apartment, has a sister whose husband is abusive. She has been trying to talk her into leaving him with their son. Apparently Kelly was at their house helping her sister pack when the husband arrived home and started beating her sister. She called 911 but before they arrived her sister passed out and it looked as if he was going to go after her so she packed up her nephew and her two kids and returned to Hope House. Unfortunately he followed them back and tried to get in, now the residents are freaked out, as well as the staff, and Kelly wants to talk to me." That last statement peaked everyone's attention.
"Why does she want to talk to you?" Three voices asked at the same time.
"I helped her move into the house and we having been talking about her working for the Foundation. With this new development, I may need to look into having her work at the ranch if she is willingly to move, it has more security. I need to make some calls to ensure CPS doesn't try to take her nephew from her, if you don't have any questions?"
There weren't so we listened to her conversations as she called the Head of Social Services in Seattle, as well as a foundation lawyer that specialized in Family Law to meet her at the house. We arrived to police taking statements, crying children, and two women arguing over the boy one of them was holding.
"Mrs. Sinclair, you and Mr. Cullen need to wait in the car until we can check things over." Anthony said and we both expected an argument from her.
"Fine, but please be as quick as possible Anthony." He nodded and got out of the car meeting the other two by her door. Grey stayed with the car as they quickly checked the house and grounds for any potential threat. Fifteen minutes later we were given the okay but we had to go directly inside the house and stay there, not being outside for any length of time.
Two hours later, just as the sun was rising, having pushed our return to Chicago back until the afternoon, Bella and I crawled back into bed with a small five-year-old boy sleeping between us.
When the call came from Stephanie and she said it was about Kelly my heart fell. Kelly was a Hope House success, she had taken the resources available and put them to good use. She was close to moving out with her kids and moving on to a better future. She first hit my radar when moving to the bigger house over the summer. I became better acquainted with her as she went through the application process at the Foundation. My last visit to the house she mentioned her sister's situation, I think with the hope that we could take her into the house. However that wasn't what Hope House did or was about, it could prove to be dangerous to the other residents. She told me she understood but, did she?
I walked into the house expecting to face her wrath for not bending the rules where her sister was concerned. Instead I found gratitude that I brought with me people who could stop her nephew from going into the system right away. As Margaret, a Foundation lawyer, explained to her the process of keeping him out of the system I watched her deflate in front of me. When she asked to speak with me alone, I was in for the shock of my life.
"Mrs. Sinclair I need to ask something of you and it's going to sound absolutely nuts, but I can't think of anything else to do." She was pacing quickly and had her hands in her hair, tugging. To be honest, she frightened me slightly. "Jo, my sister, told me once what to do if anything ever happened to her and I know, I know her husband beat her but I never thought it would go this far. I mean, I didn't know it had gotten this bad this quickly and I just, I just don't have the means to do it now. I thought I had more time." She wasn't making any sense.
"Kelly calm down and talk to me. I'll try to help you in any way I can, but you need to calm down first."
"Right, calm. Jo told me a few weeks ago that if anything happened to her I should take Tommy and leave, run as far and as fast as I could to get him away from Thomas' family. She was going to give me money she had saved and plan out where would be the safest places to go, but she ran out of time and now I can't."
"So, are you asking me for money? To help hide all of you until this is over?"
"No, it's too late to hide now. I can't let his family get their hands on Tommy, it wouldn't be good for him." She was confusing the hell out of me.
"Kelly, I still have no idea what you are trying to say." I pulled her over to a couch. "Tell me exactly what it is you need me to do to help you."
"I need you to take Tommy." My brain must have shut down because the next thing I knew she was shaking my shoulder, calling my name.
"Excuse me? Did you just say you want me to take Tommy?"
"No, I can't."
"Yes you can."
"They'll take him from me and I can't let that happen."
"I can help you keep him. I won't let them take him from you." I couldn't believe what she was asking me to do.
"No, I don't have the means to keep him." She put her head in her hands. "I'm not explaining this right. It's taking too much time to explain."
"Are you worried someone will leave here with him?' At her nod I open the door and Edward was leaning against the wall opposite.
"Find Anthony and tell him no one leaves with the little boy, Tommy, until I'm done in here. It's important the boy stays here for now Edward.'
"Okay love, I'll find him." He said as he kissed me quickly before going to find Anthony and I return to Kelly.
"He won't be allowed to leave until we are done here. Anthony won't let anyone take him, tell me what exactly what it is you need."
"Okay," she said and took a deep, calming breath before continuing. "Tommy's full name is Thomas Randall Mercer III."
"Mercer? As in the Mercer Island Mercer's?"
"That would be them." Now I understood why she felt she needed help. "They're a very strict, hard-nose family. Jo never felt welcome and they repeatedly put her down. I know the abuse started out as verbal and Jo always felt Thomas felt comfortable saying things to her because of how his parents treated her. Things were better while she was pregnant and for the first two years after she had Tommy, but when it came time for him to start preschool the fighting started up again. They couldn't agree on where to send him or the number of days a week he should attend. Thomas stood with his parents against Jo, social standing runs their lives and she didn't want that for Tommy." She was becoming more agitated and I was dreading the next part of the story.
"I think the abuse turned physical when Tommy showed signs of how the living situation was affecting him."
"I don't understand."
"Well about a year or a year and a half ago he…I don't know, reverted. He started wetting the bed and stuttering in certain situations. He even wet his pants a few times when Mrs. Mercer was correcting him about his behavior. That is around the time Jo realized she needed to get both of them out if she wanted Tommy to have any chance at a normal childhood. I think Thomas caught on to what she was trying to do and the physical abuse picked up. I have been begging her for months and months to just leave him and run, that there are organizations that would help her get out. She was finally leaving today and he came home early and caught us. You pretty much know the rest from there."
"You're his family too, you don't need me to take him. I'm willing to give you all kinds of assistance to keep him…"
"I can't!" She screamed cutting me off. "It's too much. I'm trying to get my life on track and with my two kids I just can't take on another one." She looked down and I knew she was ashamed of whatever would come out of her mouth next. "He already has so many issues, the bed wetting, stuttering, his clinginess, and anger. I can't risk having him around my kids. I know the Mercer's will fight for him and even with you in my corner," she huffed out a breath before looking in my eyes. "Your name carries the same if not more weight than theirs and mine doesn't. Even if I could take him I would still ask you to because I think you actually have a chance of winning against them. Also, I may be mistaken but I think I'm right, I believe that you'll allow me to be in his life in some aspect, even if only on the fringes."
"Have you really thought this through? What you're asking, people aren't going to understand and I'm sure the Mercer's will fight this, things will get very ugly."
"I cannot allow those people to raise him. Jo's will leaves me as his guardian. I'm hoping if Thomas is convicted it will be taken into consideration. If they are allowed to raise or even see him God only knows what kind of life he will have, it won't be a good one I guarantee it. Please Mrs. Sinclair, please. You're a good person, people look up to you and I've watched you handle everything the last few months and really watched you the last few days. Your hands are the best ones I can put him in, I know it."
She was begging, I was having a hard time processing the fact she was actually trying to get me to take her nephew, but it was the soft knock on the door and the little boy on the other side that made my decision easy.
"Aunt Kelly, I m-m-messed. I'm r-r-really sorry." He wailed out just as her children came in and giggled when they saw his wet pants. I know they didn't mean it, one looked to be 3 and the other around 6 or 7, but with those giggles I saw him pull in even more and I knew she would never be able to give him the help he needed.
"Let me see what I can do?" I told her softly as I went in search of Margaret and Bill Martin, the Head of CPS in Seattle.
I didn't explain what Kelly wanted in full, I did tell them that I wanted to take Tommy home with me as his temporary guardian. I also stressed I wanted to return to Chicago and then take him to Scotland with me before returning to Seattle with him in about a month. They looked at like I was nuts and I went on to explain that I was qualified as a foster parent in Washington and Illinois, I kept my qualifications current in any state I owned a home. After much discussion with myself and Kelly they agreed to wake up a, hopefully, friendly judge.
Thirty minutes later Tommy was strapped in a car seat between Edward and myself sound asleep, his belongings in the trunk as we sped home. I explained to Edward and the others exactly what she asked of me as I watched Tommy sleep. Edward, understandably, was shocked.
"I haven't made any type of decision other than to get him out of the situation he was in tonight Edward. This isn't a decision I can make on my own, we'll need to talk about this, it affects us both. However, in the meantime, I want Stephen to dig up anything he can on the Mercer's. Should we decide to go through with this it would be much easier to get them to quietly back down rather than take them to court. I also want to meet with Seth Clearwater when we return to Chicago." I looked at Tommy, who for the first time looked serene in his sleep. "He's going to need all the help we can give him."
"We'll make sure he gets it Bella. Anything, everything he needs, I promise."
The next morning I woke to find Tommy curled next to me but Edward was nowhere to be found. I adjusted the intercom to broadcast through the house so I would be able to hear when Tommy woke and went in search of Edward. I found him holed up on the first floor in what had become our office. He was on the phone but got off quickly once he noticed I entered the room.
"Bella, I woke up thinking about something, as much as I hate to suggest this I think we should postpone the trip to Scotland."
"Actually Edward it's a relief to hear you say that, I was dreading bringing it up to you but I agree. I'm not sure we are even able to take Tommy out of the country and I don't feel comfortable leaving him behind."
"I know, to be honest I feel apprehensive about leaving Seattle but we need to be in Chicago for a few days, at least."
"You're right and I have no idea how he is going to respond to any of this, that's why I asked Seth Clearwater to meet us at the airport in Chicago. He is a great child psychologist and it will give him an opportunity to meet Tommy outside his office first."
We heard sheets rustling through the intercom signaling that Tommy was awake. "Let me go talk to him first and then I'll bring him down to meet you." Edward looked hurt at my statement, so I hurried to reassure him. "We have no idea how he will react to seeing a man Edward and if I remember you're about the size of his father. I don't want to scare him, I want him to know that you would never hurt him, in any way." With his nod, I ran up the stairs to find a frightened little boy in our large bed.
"Tommy, my name is Bella Sinclair. We met last night at the house with your Aunt Kelly." He had buried his face in a pillow.
"Where is my mom? Is she coming back?" The look on his face told me he already knew the answer but was holding out hope I would say she was coming back.
"No Tommy, I'm sorry but your mom isn't able to come back." I told him as I sat on the edge of the bed.
"What about my Aunt Kelly?"
"We can see her again, but Hope House just doesn't have the room for you to be able to stay with her."
"So I have to stay with Grandmother and Grandfather Mercer?"
"No, we were hoping you would stay with us, Edward and I."
"Well, you need a place to stay and we have lots of room here. I love kids, even though I don't have any, and you need people that will keep you safe, we can do that."
"But I don't know you."
"Would you be willing to get to know us?"
"Mr. Edward too?"
"Yes, he wants to get to know you too."
"Is he nice?"
"Yes, he is very nice and he would never hurt you."
"The other kids told me I was lucky to be going home with you. They said you are really nice."
"I think I'm nice, but you can ask Edward or anyone else here if you like, or you could stay with us and find out for yourself that I'm nice."
"I miss my mommy." He whispered and threw himself at me as he cried.
"I know you do Tommy, I know you do." I found myself wishing I could do more, but I learned the hard way that time was the only thing to truly help.
"You'll let me stay? You won't send me away?"
"We won't send you away."
"But what if I'm bad?"
"Not even if you are bad. There will be rules and if you go against the rules you will be put in time out. Nothing you do will makes us send you away."
"No yelling or hitting?"
"No hitting or yelling." I found myself wanting to hit the person that made that question necessary.
"Okay, I'll stay." I barely heard him over the rumble of his stomach.
"Let's go downstairs and see if Edward left any pancakes for us. He is a pancake hog."
Tommy giggled when we entered the kitchen and found Edward with a stack of pancakes in front of him. "Told you." I whispered to him. He said hello to him then sat next to me and watched Edward as he ate. We explained that we needed to go to Chicago for a few days and he would be going with us, but we would stop and see Kelly before we left. He seemed relieved to find out we would return to Seattle as soon as business was finished.
The look on his face was priceless when he realized there would only be six of us flying on the jet to Chicago and that he could run around the cabin or watch a movie if he wanted. One of the six was Ian, Tommy's bodyguard. Ian was on the short side of average for a man at 5'6" but we hoped that would put Tommy at ease. We explained that Ian would be with him when Edward or I couldn't for safety reasons. We didn't explain that Ian was as lethal as all the body guards or that the wrist cuff he wore was actually a tracking device. Our hope was that if we did the necessary things from the beginning, he wouldn't question them until he was older and better able to understand.
Seth was waiting in the car when we landed, he met Tommy as one of our friends without the label of doctor attached. Over the next few days Tommy stuck like glue to me, only showing emotion when he was playing with the dogs. Thor, Loki, and Lady abandoned Edward and I and now slept with Tommy every night in the room across from ours. If you peeked in at night it was hard to find Tommy in the bed because the three of them would be pressed tightly to him. Seth told us he was responding normally given the situation.
The situation, in the last few days the Mercer's have gone ballistic, demanding their grandson back. Edward contacted a friend from college, Tanner Riley, a top child advocate lawyer to take our case against the Mercer's. No one has gone to the press yet about Tommy, all of the stories so far have dealt with Thomas killing his wife, but the Mercer's are threatening to go public soon. We hope they don't until we are back in Seattle and Stephen has the chance to dig something up to keep them quiet.
The Cullen's have arrived over the last few days and have enjoyed exploring the manor and grounds. Tommy hasn't warmed up to them yet but they were giving him his space to do it at his own speed. He loves to run through the manor with the dogs chasing him. They finally wised up, the dogs that is, and would now split up and corner him in a room before pouncing on him. I would hear him whispering to them sometimes or crying into one of them at night, it broke my heart but I was glad he saw them as friends and hoped it helped. Seth explained it was normal for children to react that way, he could express his feelings to an animal when he couldn't to a person. As long as he was expressing emotion and not shutting down I was okay with it.
He hadn't spent much time with Edward, until this morning. Tommy had been watching Edward but not interacting with him much. After breakfast Edward asked him to come in the office he needed his help with something. They have been thick as thieves ever since and neither of them will tell me what is happening. It's obvious they have a secret, Tommy giggles every time I see him, no one is talking. I pretend to glare at them when I see them with their heads together, Tommy laughs and tells me it's a surprise before walking off with Edward in tow.
I've noticed how Edward looks at him now, especially since he made a true connection. He wants to keep him as badly as I do. In less than a week, this little boy has firmly ensconced himself in our lives and hearts. We will not give him up without a fight, if necessary.
Tonight was New Year's Eve and the party. Edward insist I wear the ivory dress he found and fell in love with, I agree because I was truthfully shocked it mattered to him and the dress is gorgeous. The party will be smaller than normal this year, with Aro still out there we didn't want to take a chance on anyone slipping in with the guests. Everything is set up in the ballroom, per Edward's instructions a heavy white tent was placed in the courtyard off the ballroom for the surprise he has been planning. After he caught me trying to peek in the tent, Edward gave Tommy a chair and told him to watch the tent, that I was trying to cheat and peek inside. Tommy took his duties seriously, when he yelled for Edward the second time I tried to talk him into letting me look I was banished upstairs to get ready. I really wanted to know what was in that tent.
We hired Theresa's daughter to stay with Tommy in his room for the night. He was allowed to say a quick hello to some of the guests then whisked upstairs. We didn't want him frightened by the number of people or to overhear the questions we were sure to be ask about his situation.
The guests arrive and as expected Stella, Gloria and others ask about the engagement and Tommy. Everyone except for Alice and Jasper met most of the guests when they were out for the fundraiser, Emmett made sure to introduce him to the Fuller sisters. The look on his face the first time his butt was pinched was priceless. He didn't know if he should ignore it or not. When it happened again, he stumbled in his steps, his face turned an interesting shade of red, but when he looked at Abigail she had the most innocent look on her face. I sent Edward out to save him, Jasper didn't appreciate Alice and Rose laughing at his situation. As I walked over to explain to him that she truly is harmless I saw Edward move her hand back down to his shoulder as soon as she lifted it.
"Now Mrs. Fuller, you know Isabella isn't a very good sharer."
"You would ruin an old ladies fun, Edward?"
"No Ma'am, but I do request you keep your hands above my waist."
"Fine," she huffed and began squeezing his biceps.
Those ladies will never change, at least Edward learned to take it in stride and not be offended.
As midnight approached Edward became very…jittery. I looked for Stephen to see if something was happening but Anthony found me first and I was assured that everything was as it should be. I resigned myself to enjoy the rest of the night, whatever was bothering him would have to wait until the party ended.
At one minute till midnight I felt a pair of very familiar arms wrap around my waist. "I want to start the new year off right Bella. I want us to have a brand new beginning." He was confusing me and the guests had started a ten second countdown making it harder to hear what he is saying. When the guests said one and Auld Lang Syne started playing Edward kissed me and we wished each other a Happy New Year. I was excited about the coming year, for the first time in a long time I felt as if I was exactly where I was meant to be.
"It's time for your surprise Bella." With his hand at the small of my back Edward was leading me out to the tent. "I know this may seem out of the blue but I really want this Bella." I noticed the guests were being led into the tent and I was hearing gasps of shock and murmurings.
"What's happening Edward? I don't understand." He pulled aside the flap so we could enter tent and my heart stuttered.
"I love you Bella. I want to marry you…now."
I looked around the tent at the guests in white chairs, the candles and fireplaces glowing, the judge at the end of the aisle, and more tulips than I had ever seen outside Holland. I glanced at Edward's family and they definitely didn't know this was going to happen. However, judging by the smirks they were wearing Stephen, William, and Anthony were in on the surprise.
"What? How did you do all of this?"
"I promise to explain everything and tell you who helped me. I will answer every one of your questions and smile through the lecture I'm sure you want to give me, but first, I need you to say yes."
I was so busy looking around and trying to concentrate on what he was saying, I failed to notice Edward maneuver us down the aisle and in front of the judge.
"I'm speechless Edward. I mean…" I never would have guessed this was his surprise. I looked up and the man actually looked worried about my answer. "Yes Edward, yes."
With my yes the ceremony started and it was short and sweet and everything I hoped it would be. Fifteen minutes after I said yes, we were presented to the small gathering of friends and family as Mr. & Mrs. Edward Cullen.
A/N: As always I do not own Twilight or its characters.
I have an entry in the Pop the Question Contest – it's anonymous so I can't tell you which is mine. Voting is open until the 31st.
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