Hey everyone! Ok so I have a couple of things to say.

The first order of business is that I want to apologize for taking so long to update. My life has been pretty hectic, boy drama and the SAT. I took the SAT yesterday and am taking the ACT on Saturday.

Second order of business. Starting the 14th of June I am taking off for a 2 week vacation and I will not be bringing a computer with me. So I know you all are going to kill me for it. So I will not be posting from June 14 through 28. It will probably take me a day or two to write the next chapter so I probably wont post until the beginning of July. I hope to post another chapter of this story before I go on vacation but if you don't I just wanted to let you know. My mom and I have been planning this trip for a while now and now we finally get to go. So for those of you still reading you must not be too angry with me. I want you all to know that I love you and thank you for being loyal readers.

Enjoy!

Chapter Seventeen

Keep Holding On

"And action." The director called, cuing for the actors to begin.

Bella stood behind the director, clipboard in hand and laptop open on the table at her side. Today was one to test her abilities. Things were going great with her and Edward. Actually, better than any relationship she had ever had and they had only known each other a short while. But everyone knew that they had an instant connection. Despite the complexities in her life, being with Edward was simple. One could almost say it was natural.

The only problem was that she was exhausted. This morning hadn't started out as planned. Props had been missing, make up went wrong, and an actor called in sick. She was running up and down flights of stairs, sending people across town to get things, and had been on the phone since seven this morning. She hadn't even seen or spoken to Edward today. He had a press conference and she was ready to pass out.

"Have another cup of coffee, Bella." Benjamin suggested and handed her a mug.

"Thank you. You're an angel, Benjamin." Bella sighed with relief and accepted the mug.

"Oh and Carlisle emailed me this morning. He knew you were going to be too busy with all of this to remember but we have a meeting that all executives have to attend this afternoon. It's for the Charity Gala."

"Right. The two o'clock meeting Carlisle mentioned yesterday."

"Moms don't miss anything do they?"

"We try our best not to."

Bella took a sip of her coffee and then went back to filing a progress report for the commercial.

When Bella got to her office she collapsed her in large leather chair. The campaign was done. Now all that had to happen was Carlisle approving the large electronic and physical backup manila folder containing every single detail of the campaign.

"I feel old." Bella groaned as she rolled her head to the side.

As she let out a breath of relaxation her phone began to ring.

"Just my luck." She mumbled.

She picked it up and slammed it to her ear.

"Hello, Bella. I'm sorry to bother you at work but I was just calling you to update on James's case." Alec's voice came through the phone.

Bella sighed knowing that this was inevitable.

"Let me hear it."

"Do you want the good news first or the bad news first?"

"The good news."

"The good news is that if James confesses to his alcoholic habits and bringing in of women in a risqué manor into the home when Gracie is present and confesses to your abuse I can have the divorce case taken second on the list."

"That's great news!" Bella squealed. "But what's the bad news?"

"He won't confess."

"Is there anything I can do?"

"I'm afraid not because now I'm not even allowed to see him because the court dates have been settled. I recommend that you do not bring Edward."

"I wasn't planning on it. It wouldn't seem right to put him through it or for the guy I'm dating to be present at the court sessions of the man I'm leaving."

"Brining Rose and possibly Emmett seems like the wise thing to do. You are staying with them. Gracie's presence is necessary for some of the cases. You realize the judge will talk to Gracie by herself. I know she seems young to be doing this but she is capable of speaking for herself. So don't try and give her things to say to the judge. Or you'll get penalized because the judge will know."

"I understand. I just want this over with. Oh and I am getting a house of my own for Gracie and I. Esme found one that she says is perfect and so I'm going to check it out today after work. I'm sorry, Alec. I'm having a busy morning and I'm exhausted. Can I call you back later?"

"Of course, Bella. I'll talk to you later."

When Bella got off the phone she walked over to the couch in her office and collapsed. Before she knew it she was out cold and catching up on some much deserved sleep.

~ . ~ ~ . ~

When Edward got back from the press conference the first thing he wanted to do was see Bella. Apparently she wasn't answering her phone because he had texted and called her a few times. He went to her office and found it left open a jar. When he knocked on the door he heart someone yawning.

"Bella." He said softly when he pushed the door open a bit further.

"Hmmm, did someone say my name?" She asked sleepily.

She rubbed her eyes a few times and then sat up and stared at him.

"Have a good sleep?" Edward chuckled as he shook a white bag.

"Uh huh." She nodded with a small smile. Then her eyes went to the bag. "Is that food?"

"Yep. I picked up Mexican. Hope you don't mind."

"That sounds pretty good right now. I'm starving. What time is it by the way?"

Edward walked over the couch and sat beside her. He put the bag on the coffee table and then placed a quick kiss on her forehead.

"It's twelve thirty."

"Oh my, I slept for an hour!"

"It's all right. It looks like you needed it."

He unpacked the bag and saw Bella almost drool over the food. Bella turned towards him and stilled his hands. Suddenly she was quite hungry for something else. His eyes met hers and a gasp escaped his lips. Her mouth crashed onto his he didn't protest. Her lips were like Heaven to Edward. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close. She tasted sweet like spring time and when she sighed into him he couldn't help but sigh back.

"Are you all right?' Edward asked against her lips.

"Mhmm." Bella moaned and then pulled her lips away.

Her cheeks were stained crimson red.

After a few more minutes of kissing Bella finally decided that she was too hungry to kiss anymore. They both dove into their food and enjoyed light conversation as they ate. It wasn't until the phone rang that turmoil stirred again.

"Bella." Alec's voice came through the phone once more.

"Alec, what's wrong?"

"It's about James. Do you remember a man by the name of Riley?"

"Yes, he was James's right hand man."

"Yeah, well, he isn't anymore."

"What do you mean?"

"He's done with James's shit."

"I don't understand."

"He came clean to the police. He's admitted everything he's helped James's with. He's confessed to witnessing your abuse." Bella couldn't breath because the memories were coming back to her. "This could help, Bella."

At that moment Bella tossed the phone to Edward and sprinted out of her office towards the bathroom. Edward followed her until he got to the woman's restroom sign on the door. He called for Alice and Rosalie. Alice came first and Rose followed not long after.

Bella fell to her knees and grasped the porcelain god for dear life. She began to worship it by tossing her lunch. Alice came in behind her and held Bella's hair. Rose squeezed into the stall and rubbed Bella's back. They waited for to finish emptying the contents of her stomach. Esme came rushing in desperate to get to the girl whom she considered her daughter.

When Bella was finished she slumped against the wall of the stall. Alice and Rose helped her up and Esme tried to get Bella to talk.

"Bella. Please, Sweetie. Say something." Esme coaxed as they helped her lean against the sinks.

"Esme, can we go into your office and talk, just you and me? I need a mom right now." Bella said and then looked at Alice and Rose. "Thank you, both of you for coming to my aid. I just need to talk to Esme right now."

"We understand." Alice spoke up as Rose hugged Bella.

"Feel better, Sis." Rose murmured.

When Bella came out of the restroom Edward tried to talk to her but Esme started talking before he could.

"She needs a mother right now, Edward."

With that Esme took Bella into her office and sat her down on the sofa. Esme sat down beside her and wrapped her arm around Bella. She gave Bella a pocket toothbrush, the kind you stick on your finger to use. Bella took it gratefully along with the glass of water that she was handed as well.

"Sweetie, do you want to talk about it?"

Bella looked up at Esme and sighed. Esme was shocked to see that Bella wasn't crying.

"I puked at the thought of Riley witnessing James's acts upon me. Riley witnessed it several times and never once did a thing about it. Now he's coming clean to the police. I just feel dirty and gross. The memories scare me, Esme. And when they flooded back to me I wanted scream for Renee or Charlie."

Carlisle then came rushing in as if knowing that Bella needed a father in her life as well. He sat down on the other side of her and moved the fallen strands of hair from her face.

"Edward just told me what Alec said about Riley and what he confessed. Bella, my God what you've gone through. You're such a brave girl."

He stroked the side of her face and stared at her in a fatherly way.

"Bella. I swear I am going to do whatever it takes to get you through this. You're family and you can't do this on your own. No one can. I love you as if you were my own flesh and blood. You're like a daughter to me and this is out of your control, this situation. I'm stepping in. I can't stand to see you suffer like this any longer. If Charlie were here he would be fighting with every ounce of his power for you and so would Renee and that is exactly what Esme and I are going to do."

He wrapped her in his arms and held her close. Esme hugged her from behind and a small smile pulled at the corner of Bella's lips. She felt at home. She had parents again.

Carlisle held her like that for a while and Esme continued to stroke Bella's hair and back. Bella wasn't sad more confused than anything.

"Bella. Here's an idea for you. Why don't you and I go to the spa on Sunday? I think you just need some pampering and some time to yourself to get your mind off things?"

"Oh Esme. That sounds lovely. If it isn't any trouble?"

"No trouble all dear. Then we could hit the local bookstore and you could hit up the books you've been aching to read. I saw you started the book club one it was on your desk. You could spend the rest of the day reading or whatever you like and the boys would take Gracie off your hands."

A knock then came to the door and the velvety voice that Bella was so accustomed to filled her ears.

"Bella."

All he said was her name and that was enough to make all of her fears melt away. Carlisle released her and she got up off the couch and threw herself into Edward's arms. He wrapped his arms around her and buried his face in her hair. He held her tightly to him, keeping her secure.

"I'm sorry I ran." She murmured softly as relaxed into his hold though she was clinging to the cloth of his shirt for dear life.

"Don't be. You were sick. I took care of everything."

She looked up at him in confusion.

"Bella, I care for you. I want to be with you, but first you need to get better."

This made Bella step away from him and she felt like her world was about to fall apart.

"I'm sorry. This is my fault. I've pulled you into this and now you don't want me anymore."

Edward reached for her and pulled her to him.

"No. That's not what I'm saying at all, Bella." He took her cheek in his hand. "You always assume. If we are going to have a shot at making it as a couple we need to listen to each other. What I wanted to say was once you are done with these trials I think it would be good for you if you took a week off by yourself. Maybe with Rose or Alice to go with you. I think you just need to get away from everything. You need some time for yourself. I want you, Bella. I want to be with you, but I'm willing to wait. You need to focus on you. And I know you're a lot better but you just need a break. You're going to have high days and you're going to have low days. Some days you just might feel life you can't take it, but I'm going to be there for you. Alec said he doesn't want me there with you in LA next week and I understand. I just want you to know that I'm a phone call away. Just hang in there, Bella, keep holding on."

That's when Edward took her chin between his thumb and forefinger and their eyes locked. He began to whisper to her the words of a familiar song and it stole her breath away.

"You're not alone, together we stand

I'll be by your side, you know I'll take your hand

When it gets cold and it feels like the end

There's no place to go, you know I won't give in

No I won't give in

Keep holding on

'Cause you know we'll make it through, we'll make it through

Just stay strong

'Cause you know I'm here for you, I'm here for you

There's nothing you could say, nothing you could do

There's no other way when it comes to the truth

So keep holding on

'Cause you know we'll make it through

So far away, I wish you were here

Before it's too late this could all disappear

Before the door's closed and it comes to an end

With you by my side I will fight and defend

I'll fight and defend

Keep holding on

'Cause you know we'll make it through, we'll make it through

Just stay strong

'Cause you know I'm here for you, I'm here for you

There's nothing you could say, nothing you could do

There's no other way when it comes to the truth

So keep holding on

'Cause you know we'll make it through, we'll make it through

Here me when I say when I say, I believe

Nothing's gonna change, nothing's gonna change destiny

Whatever's meant to be will work out perfectly

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Bella laced her fingers in his hair and pulled his face down to hers. Their lips met in a luscious kiss. Bella felt so secure with Edward at the very moment.

"Edward." Bella moaned.

"Bella." Edward moaned in reply.

Edward's hand was about to run up the back of her shirt or cup her ass, he hadn't decided which when Carlisle cleared his throat. They pulled away, their cheeks flushed red.

"Sorry, Dad." Edward apologized as he kept Bella secured to him.

"Why don't we go to the meeting?" Carlisle suggested desperate to get out of the room now due to the wants for his own wife. He would be fulfilling those tonight.

Bella and Edward sat next to each other at the conference. Of course they were paying attention because they were good employees but that didn't stop them from flirting. Edward's hand was on her knee and Bella was drawing pattern with her fingertips on his palm.

"Edward, what do you think?" Esme asked, clearly noticing her son's lack of attention.

"I think it's a lovely idea, but your ideas are always lovely." Edward cooed as Bella tickled his hand.

"The gala is in September. We're almost ready. Mostly thanks to Alice."

Bella then started moving her hand up his arm until it was just below the table. Then she slid her hand onto the table and onto her computer. She typed a few things on her computer and Edward looked at her screen. He smiled when he saw the joke about his sister.

"I think my mom knows." Edward whispered in Bella's ear.

"You're mom knows a lot, Edward. Don't doubt her awesome mom powers."

"You have awesome mom powers, too. Well they work on Gracie. You just charm me with your self."

Bella giggled right as the meeting ended. Edward was kissing her neck because they were the only ones left in the conference room.

"Mmm. Edward. I have to go pick up Gracie."

"Will you come back to me?" Edward purred as he sucked on Bella's neck.

"I don't think you're giving me much of a choice." Bella gasped and then pulled away.

She grabbed her things and then dropped them off at her office.

"Gracie, guess who's here." Mrs. Caroline called into the house when Bella came to the door.

"Aunt Rosie?" Gracie asked.

"No, you silly girl." Bella laughed.

Gracie came running at the sound of Bella's voice.

"Mommy!" Gracie squealed and then leapt into her mother's arms.

"Hi, Baby." Bella cooed as she hugged her little girl.

"Hi, Mommy!" Gracie couldn't believe Bella had come to pick her up. She was now use to Rosalie picking her up in the afternoons.

"Did you have a good day at camp?" Bella asked as Caroline handed her Gracie's bag.

"Uh-huh. We made necklaces of out pasta!" Gracie giggled as she showed her mom the necklace she was wearing.

"Oh pretty, Gracie, you love making pasta jewelry."

"I made one for you! Oh and Aunt Rosie and Alice and Grandma!"

"Oh you were busy weren't you?" Bella laughed and Gracie nodded.

"She and Rachel spent a lot of the time at that table." Caroline laughed.

"Caroline, can I ask you something?"

"Of course." Caroline chimed.

"How is she doing with the kids? I know she is friends with Rachel but she's playing with the others as well?"

"Yes, but you need to let kids be kids, Bella. I know you're concerned but you really have nothing to worry about. Grace is a natural leader. The kids like to see what she does and then they do it. There isn't a kid in the group that she doesn't get along with. Sometimes she gets a little impatient with Finn, but he's just a bit rougher than Grace likes. You're daughter is a good listener and easy to work with, so you don't need to worry as much."

"Thanks, Caroline. I feel a lot better knowing that. Oh and Grace and I leave on Wednesday. Hopefully we get these court sessions out quickly but we will be back. It might come down to Rose or Esme taking her back here and me staying in LA until this James thing is done. I don't want Gracie's life being put on hold while I am cleaning up a mess."

"I understand. If there's anything I can do just give me a call. My daughter, Summer, likes to finger paint with Gracie, if you need someone to take her off your hands when you need a rest just let me know."

"Thank you, I appreciate it."

Just as Bella was about to turn around a little girl came running out to the woman coming up next to Bella.

"Hi, Rachel!" Gracie giggled. "You're mommy is here, too."

"Uh-huh. Where's Rosie, she always picks you up?"

"Mommy got me today." Gracie said with a smile as she looked down at Rachel.

Rachel's mom picked up her daughter and took her back from Caroline.

"So you're Gracie's mom." Rachel's mother said with a smile.

"Yes. I'm sorry I couldn't be there yesterday. It's nice to meet you though." Bella extended her hand to the woman.

"Oh don't worry, Hun. Rose told me what was going on, well she told me the truth verses the trash that's all over the news. I completely understand. You're very lucky to have such a caring family. I'm Bree by the way, Bree Tanner."

"It's nice to finally meet you, Bree. I'm Bella Swan. Gracie has been telling me about how much she loves your daughter."

"Oh that's all Rachel talks about, playing with Gracie. I never thought Rachel was going to get over Eloise or find another little girl who was obsessed with it as much as she was. Some girls like princesses and some like fairies, but no, ours love Eloise who lives at the Plaza."

Bella couldn't help but laugh. Finally someone understood where she was going from when it came to Gracie's obsession.

"I'm thankful for it sometimes though. Gracie is an individual like I was when I was a kid, except she's far more outgoing."

"She seems to be taking the move well and the divorce."

"I know. Hey, do you want to go grab ice cream with the kids?" Bella asked knowing she didn't have to be back at work for a while.

"Sure. The kids would love that."

"So you haven't had trouble at all with her about the divorce?" Bree asked in amazement as they looked at their daughter playing with the gummy bears left over from their ice cream.

"No. I mean Gracie understands that we're living here now and that her father is staying in LA. She doesn't understand divorce but she does understand that her father and I are getting 'unmarried' as Gracie would say. She's noticed I don't wear my rings. And I'm seeing someone so she's happy."

"You're talking about Edward Cullen?"

"Yes. It started out as just friends but we're being careful. He wants me to take a week off on a vacation for just me by myself after the divorce. He says he wants me but he wants me to be sure. He doesn't want me to feel suffocated by going from one broken marriage to a relationship. He thinks, and I agree, that if I just take some time off for myself, because ever since I had Gracie I haven't really had me time, that I'll be ok. Esme offered to take care of Gracie for that week and I don't know how Gracie will take it. She's so mature because she's been through so much." Bella smiled at her daughter and her heart swelled with love. "Gracie is finally getting to be a child. She finally gets to be carefree. It was terrible Bree, sometimes James would hit me so bad it was Gracie who had to call Angela, a girl I worked with, to come help me up."

"I understand, Hun. I've been in the same boat."

Bella's eyebrows jumped so high they almost flew off her face.

"I'm 29. I use to be young and stupid. I thought I was in love with this guy. He was 27 and I was 19. He was abusive and we were married. I married right out of high school and he paid for me to go to college. I think that's why I stayed with him for so long. Then one day I realized I was so much better than what I was doing with my life. I got up the courage and got divorced. I can only imagine how much harder it is when adding a child to the mix. If Rachel had been in that situation with me I would have gone insane. Not only are you having to take care of yourself and heal but you have to look out for your little one and make sure she's still hanging in there. Randall was terrible. I am so glad I got out of that situation. You're better than James, Bella. You know I always thought that wives of CEOs were obnoxious I assumed that they were the same thing as celebrities and trophy wives. Then I met Esme one day at the grocery store and we had a nice chat. I fled to Seattle for God knows why. I guess I thought I could hide here. I ran all the way from New York. It wasn't like I had any place to go. My father's a drunk and my mother left when I was just a little girl. For some reason I just thought "Seattle". Esme always comes into my bookstore every once in a while. Anyway, the Cullens are good people. When she told me that Carlisle was her husband I was shocked. I realized then that I had misjudged her. She is such a sweet woman and helped me get my life in gear. Carlisle is one of the nicest men I have ever met. Actually he's the one who introduced me to my husband, Diego. And now we have Rachel."

"Aw. You have your own happily ever after."

"Yep. And you'll get yours, too. Sometimes you just have to lose your stubbornness and live a little. And if you end up with Cullen I would say that's not too bad a catch."

Bree winked and Bella couldn't help but laugh. Finally she found someone who understood her.

Gracie was sitting in Bella's lap in Bella's office. Gracie was watching her mother type some things up on her computer and was thoroughly entertained by how fast her mother could type. Today had been quite a day for Bella.

Things were definitely changing but she wasn't afraid now. She had finally accepted reality. It was something that Bree had said to her about having to watch after Gracie while healing. She had realized that Gracie was affected as well though she was progressing. She needed to spend more time with her daughter and next week was crucial to their future. Everything would depend on how James' confessed and how Gracie coped.

"Baby." Bella murmured as she pressed a kiss to her daughter's head.

"You understand that your dad and I are getting divorced."

"What does divorced mean?"

"It means that two married people want to get unmarried."

"Oh."

"Are you ok?"

Gracie sighed and looked at Lambie who was sitting on the table next to the computer but was within her reach.

"Why aren't you already unmarried? I want Edward to marry you."

Bella had to choke back a laugh, or baby it was a gasp. She couldn't tell because her face was turning red.

"Baby, Edward and I are just dating right now. Marriage doesn't happen that fast."

"But he likes me. I want you to marry him."

Bella picked Gracie up and put her on the desk. She shut her computer and ran her fingers through Gracie's hair.

"Baby, I like Edward, too. I really like him. He makes me laugh and smile. I don't know if you understand this but divorcing your dad isn't easy for me."

"You still want to be with daddy?"

"No, but you know those times that daddy would make me cry and I would tell you to lock your door?"

"Yes." Gracie replied and tried to hide her eyes from Bella.

"Some of the things daddy did, well they scared me a lot. Now that we're safe and daddy can't get us. I get scared sometimes."

"But he's not here."

"I know, Gracie. But sometimes I remember what he did. Divorce can be complicated. You're so young but you're so strong. You've been through so much and some how you made it out of that house alive. Some how he managed to have the sense or maybe the heart not to hurt you. I want you to be happy here in Seattle. Do you like it here? Are you happy here?"

"Yes. I like being here with Aunt Rosie and Uncle Emmie and Uncle Jaspie and Auntie Alice and Grandma and Grandpa and Edward and Rachel and her mommy! I want to stay here."

"We're staying here, Baby. I like it here, too. Sometimes I get scared when what daddy did comes back to me and by dealing with the divorce and I have to answer all these questions, the memories come back and I get upset."

"Don't be scared, Mommy. Emmie will protect you. He's big!"

Bella laughed a little.

"He is quite big, but I'm not scared any more. I don't want you to worry about me, Gracie. I brought us here so that we didn't have to worry anymore. We don't have to live in fear. It's ok to be sad sometimes but I want you to know I'm not going to be sad forever. I'm not going to be this confused all the time. I'm telling you this because I need to know how you feel about everything that's going on. I know that this is all confusing but you're smart and you're a good girl. Are you scared about anything? Are you mad at me for taking you out of LA? Are you upset by anything? Are you worried about anything?"

Gracie looked down at her feet and awkwardly stroked Lambie.

"Why did Daddy hurt you?"

"I don't know, Baby. He drank a lot and alcohol stops you from making good decisions."

"Edward doesn't hurt you."

"You're right. Edward doesn't hurt me. That's part of why I like him so much. He likes you, too. He thinks you're cute and fun to be around."

Gracie's face lit up at Bella's words and she smiled at her mom. Then her face fell.

"Daddy doesn't like me though."

"Oh, Sweetie. He does like you. He just never knew how to be a dad. I wish you could have grown up with a normal family. I wished that we had been living here where we belong when you were born. Just because we were in a bad situation and Daddy hurt me and ignored you doesn't mean he doesn't love you. Daddy loves you very much even if he doesn't show it. Don't doubt for a moment that he doesn't love you. There isn't a person in this world who doesn't love you."

Bella pulled Gracie to her and hugged her tightly.

"Gracie, you mean so much to me. I just want to make a world that's safe for you. I just want you to be able to laugh and play and do everything a little girl does. You shouldn't have to worry about all the things that you do. Stop worrying and just let me take care of everything. It's what mommy's do. I'm the momma sheep and you're my little lamb. I love you, Gracie. I'm always going to be here for you. I love you."

Gracie kissed her mom on the cheek. "I love you, too, Mommy."

Gracie's smile is what made Bella's world come together. She remembered what she was fighting for. Suddenly it wasn't just words and emotions. She had the most wonderful daughter that she could ever ask for and she was going to fight ruthlessly in the courtroom for her.