I'm ba-aack! This will be replaced with the final beta'd version as soon as I get it back from her.

A strangled smile fell from your face
It kills me that I hurt you this way
The worst part is that I didn't even know
Now there's a million reasons for you to go
But if you can find a reason to stay...

She said "If we're gonna make this work
You gotta let me inside even though it hurts
Don't hide the broken parts that I need to see"
She said "Like it or not it's the way it's gotta be
You gotta love yourself if you can ever love me"...

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know that I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
And give me a break
I'll keep us together, I know you deserve much better

But remember the time I told you the way that I felt
That I'd be lost without you and never find myself
Let's hold onto each other above everything else
Start over, start over

I'll do whatever it takes
To turn this around
I know what's at stake
I know I've let you down
And if you give me a chance
and believe that I can change
I'll keep us together... whatever it takes

Whatever It Takes – Lifehouse


~From Chapter 12 of The Dwyer House

I stood frozen in my spot waiting on her to tell me what I had to do.

"You just have to give me time. Like baby steps, all right? This is all... it's...so overwhelming."

I crammed my hands back in my pockets. "I know. I'm sorry if I come on too strong. I just... I want to do things right this time, Bella.."

My words felt as though they were falling on deaf ears as I watched her get up and walk toward the door as I spoke, but I didn't stop saying what I needed to say. "I've missed you so much and you have to know, I still love you, Bella. More than anything and just because back then I may have not loved you the right way, that doesn't mean that I didn't love you with all I had."

I said it. The truth. What I'd been wanting to say since I set foot on her doorstep again, days ago.

She stood still in the doorway. Her whole body seemed to be trembling, but I had the feeling that she needed me to keep my distance. So I gave her what I could, "I mean it. I'll do anything and I'll take whatever you give me. Please..."

I heard her gasp, then she shook her head, her voice jarred as she spoke, "Get some rest, Edward. We'll talk some more tomorrow." Then faintly she reminded me, "Baby steps."

She then stepped through the door and out of my sight, leaving me with nothing to hold on to – no promises, no maybes, but no "not-evers" either. So, I took it.

There was always tomorrow.

The sun was still rising in the east, the moon hadn't fallen from the sky, the earth was still spinning, and I had been invited to stay. I was doing all right, all things considered.

Tomorrow.

~x()x~

I stood staring out into the dawn long after Bella had left. My body was tired, but my mind was racing. As soon as she walked out that door, many a question would pop into my head. Questions that I didn't consider before, questions that I hadn't thought of, but questions that I most defiantly wanted to ask.

I knew I needed the rest, so I forced myself to lie down in the foreign bed. I all but counted sheep until the lull of sleep rescued me from my imagination.

I slept until the next afternoon and the only reason I woke up when I did was because my stomach was growling so loud. I ventured down the steps and found bags of groceries on the cabinet top. I opened the fridge and a few items had been placed in there too.

I smiled and felt the comfort wash over me again.

Someone was taking care of me, and with every fiber of my being I hoped it was Bella. She was the boss of this place, even if she hadn't brought the food to the cabin herself, she had at least told someone to do it. And that right there was enough for me, because even if it was only for a second, she had been thinking of me. I was on her mind.

~x()x~

I wasted as much time as I could. I put away all the groceries and then I slowly ate. I combed over every inch of the cabin mentally taking notes of everything that I thought Bella might want me to do. I tried hard not to look at the door every time I heard a noise outside and scolded myself for expecting Bella to come up and visit me.

She never did and I since I had nothing else to do I decided to go to the main house.

The Gator was still sitting outside in the driveway, but I chose to walk anyway. I didn't want to assume that she had left it there for me to drive.

I took in the simplicity of the nature around me. Last night where there had been glowing stars, there was now thin wispy clouds mingling against a pale blue sky.

This place really was magnificent, and in the past few years, I'd seen a lot of places to compare it too.

When I entered the main house, there was chatter coming from the den so I figured it was best for me to stay out of the way of the guests since I was practically an employee. I liked that–me, working for Bella. It gave me some sort of purpose.

There were two women sitting in the office. I didn't know either of them, but they both smiled my way when I entered.

"So you must Edward?" The woman with the dark, short hair asked as she extended her hand for me to shake.

I nodded and shook her hand.

"I'm Alice. I'm Bella's decorator, personal shopper, assistant... slave." She laughed. "It's nice to finally meet you."

Her eyes sparkled as she talked. She was pretty in a wholesome kind of way. She stepped back and rested on the edge of the desk. She crossed her arms and I caught sight of the giant rock on her ring finger.

The other girl stood up behind the desk and extended her hand to me. "I'm Bree and this is my domain." She giggled as she spread her other arm out to gesture to the desk. "I manage the front desk." The way she watched me as she talked made me feel like I was being ogled, and not in a good way. Her eyes kept raking over my body. I was sure she was being flirtatious, or at least trying to be.

After I shook her hand, I wiped my palms down the front of my jeans. "Nice to meet you both." The silence was awkward and I felt out of place.

"You know Edward, for a long time, we thought Bella was making you up." Alice said with a smile. "I even wondered if the pictures she had of you were of a long lost cousin or something. But now... you're here." Her smile turned genuine.

I nodded with agreement, "I am. For awhile I hope."

"That's good," Bree spoke up. "I know Bella sure did talk about you a lot."

My mouth went dry and I looked at her as though she was speaking an undiscovered language that I didn't understand.

"Bree." Alice warned. "Don't get into Bella's business...again." Alice said with aggravation. I pondered how much of Bree's talking I could take seriously.

"I'm just saying that he might like to know that Bella talked about him a lot. I mean... A. Lot." She emphasized before she winked at me. I smiled big and winked back. I might have to find some time to spend with Bree, she could possible be the little gossip queen I needed to fill me in with everything I've missed.

Alice just laughed and shook her head. "Bella's gonna be so pissed."

We all jumped as a door slammed and I heard Bella talking in the distance. "Just set them down in here."

I turned to look over my shoulder and watch for her. I listened as her heels met the hard wood floor with a click, the sound echoing through the hall. She laughed and then I heard a man's voice.

My heart sunk a bit, but I stood tall regardless. This was one of many of those baby steps I was going to have to endure.

"Well you know how it is..." She stopped talking mid-sentence as soon as she saw me. The room grew quiet again and I could feel the tension swallow the office whole. Her eyes met mine before scanning over to Alice and Bree. Then she looked right back at me and the corner of her lips curled up in the smallest of ways.

Baby steps.

"Hey." She said in an almost whisper and the uneasiness that surrounded us dissipated.

"Hey," I returned as the air quickly escaped my lungs. She still had it, the power to take my breath away.

My eyes shot to the man standing in the doorway, he shifted on his feet, clearly now he was the one feeling uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and Bella jumped. "Oh, um. Gosh. Peter, meet Edward." She looked at him and nodded her head.

"And Edward, this is Peter." Her voice was very neutral and cool. She turned to face me again and I smiled at her, feeling like I needed to assure her I was all right with this. I raised my hand and nodded once at him. He took my hand in his and our shake was very firm and candid. We both were standing our ground and stating our place without having to say a word.

"Nice to meet you." He said very stiffly before quickly dropping my hand. "I should go." He looked away from me. "See you ladies later."

"Hang on, I'll walk you out." Bella sat down her bags and turned to say to me, or maybe it was to all of us, "I'll be right back."

The drab quiet overtook the office again.

"Whew, that was unpleasant." Bree said in a sing-sing voice as soon as Bella's footsteps grew faint.

"You're not kidding." Alice mumbled under breath.

"So Edward, you'll be there tomorrow night, right?" Bree asked as she chewed on the end of her pen.

"Where?" I raised my eyebrows at her.

Her face blushed and she pursed her lips. "Oh.. uh, never mind." She answered as she shook her head and sashayed her shoulders.

Bella came back in and immediately began to question Alice. I couldn't keep up as they talked back and forth, so I meandered around the office. I looked at the photos that were hung on the walls, the awards, and the newspaper clippings.

Damn, I'd missed so much.

"Edward, walk with me?" Bella gently touched the back of my arm.

"Of course." I'll follow you anywhere.

She led us outside and then down by the pool house. It was late afternoon, and the air was getting crisp and chilly. We walked side by side past our old hang out and toward the picnic shelter at the edge of the woods.

I made a mental note to come back to the pool house first chance I got.

"Peter had to take me back to town to get my car today." She didn't look at me as she talked.

"You don't have to explain." I told her honestly.

"I know, but I wanted you to know that."

There was so much we needed to talk about that it proved to be difficult for us to get the conversation flowing freely.

"Tomorrow is our monthly staff meeting and then we have some sort of fun activity planned. I think it's board games, I want you to come." She sat down on one of the bench seats and rested her elbows on the table.

"You want me there?" It sounded too good to be true.

"I do. I want you to get to know everyone and I want you to feel... comfortable here." She finally looked at me, her eyes were sad and she was so hesitant when she spoke.

"I don't..." I straddled the bench to face her. "I don't feel comfortable here... unless you're around." My heart was pounding again, and as usual, I wondered if I'd come on too strong. Admitted too much.

She laughed and shook her head. I saw her cheeks twinge slightly pink.

"It's true." I rocked forward on my hands.

"I'm sorry you feel that way. I want you to be at ease, so maybe with time?" She batted her eyelashes and I was sure if it was possible for me to melt, I would have.

She looked away and I took in a deep breath to calm myself. "Can I ask you something?" It was time to start on some of those questions.

"Shoot." She stated as she cocked her head to the side and glanced at me.

For a second, I thought about crossing my fingers for good luck before I said anything. "Bree said you used to talk about me a lot. Is that true?"

"No she didn't." She cringed as she buried her face in her hands.

"Yeah, she did." I was feeling kind of hopeful again. It was... welcomed. "So... did you?"

She took a minute before she dropped her hands away from her face and began to talk. "Yeah. I did. Well, honestly, not for years, but yeah, more recently. I liked to talk about you, about us, and our memories. I missed you and it helped..." She grew quite and didn't say anything else.

"What did it help?" I didn't know why I asked. I just wanted her to say it. I wanted her to admit to any feelings she might have for me, and if she didn't feel much for me now, I wanted to know how she used to feel.

I was desperate.

"It helped me hurt less, Edward. If I talked openly about you, it seemed that I missed you a little less. It made me happy to think about us and what we had, knowing that it was as real as it gets."

I was glad she felt that way. "I agree, it was that. Can I be honest with you right now?" My mouth was dry again and my throat felt like it was closing up.

"Please, you don't even have to ask that." She sighed.

With that, I let my confessions spill. "I tried not to think about you. With everything I had, I tried to forget. It was impossible, don't get me wrong, there were days I could do it. But mostly, you were always on my mind, I... I was always thinking about you. I never stopped, Bella."

She nodded her head, I think that maybe she was close to tears again. "I wish things would have turned out differently Edward, but they are what they are. We can't go back and change the past, no matter how badly we might want to." She sounded regretful and dejected.

"I know. I'm sorry." My heart was aching again. It was like we took one step in the right direction and then the past came in between us and pushed us back a hundred miles.

"You don't have to keep apologizing to me." She took a deep breath.

"I feel like I need to. You have no idea how sorry I am that I messed up our lives like I did." My voice cracked as I admitted my mistake.

She shifted a little more toward me. "That's what you have to understand, it just wasn't you Edward. It was life. It was circumstances. Yes, it was shitty and hard, but we've both survived. We just have to move on."

I wanted to reach for her. I wanted to hug her and hold her and give her some sort of comfort.

But I didn't.

"I know. I get that, but I still feel guilty. All I ever wanted was you, Bella. It was the only thing I knew for certain." I gripped the wood of the bench tighter.

She looked at me, her eyes were red and brimming with tears. "I'm sorry Edward. I... I don't know what to say or what to do next. I just don't know if I can..."

My stomach dropped. "Can do what?"

"Anything."

"Experience is how life catches up with us and teaches us to love and forgive each other." ~ Judy Collins


Remember, this is labeled ANGST.

Yes, I'm back. No excuses. This update is dedicated to the ladies who kept on me to update this. Thanks to Amie for pre-reading. So much has happened, so check my profile for a few new fics that I've posted since I last updated this one, or just put me on author alert, cause I got a few more to soon post or update.

The Dwyer House was reviewed today on PICFF Corner Blog along with my interview.

www. Picffcorner. blogspot. com

If you missed TDH, let me know.. Review.

I missed you...