Welcome back FMLW readers. Sorry it took so long. This one is dedicated to my dear friend northernsally for various reasons and to my eldest son who turned eight today. Where has the time gone? Anyway, Cuddleward wanted to talk, so I'll let him get on with it...

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, it belongs to S. Meyer. I'm just playing with her toys again.

This storyline is still mine though, so please no fiddling with it without my permission

From Chapter 19...

I know we desperately need to talk. My head is a total mess right now, but for this moment all that matters is I am his and he is mine.

I close my eyes. I'll worry about it later.

But just as my eyes grow heavy and I am about to drift off to sleep I hear Edward speak.

"Bella...I think we need to talk."

Chapter 20 Let Love In

Oh no. Those words are never a good thing to hear. I'm now well and truly wide awake. I feel a creeping tension set in as I slowly sit up, turning to look at Edward. His head is propped up on his arm, as he watches me intently.

The light in the room is very dim; I can't quite make out the expression on his face. I scoot back against the pillows, keeping a little distance between us. I won't be able to concentrate if I'm in his arms.

I swallow hard.

"So what do you want to talk about?" I ask.

Edward sighs heavily and sits up, turning to face me. He flicks on the bedside lamp and I can see his face more clearly. He's not happy.

"Well, how about we start with why you keep shutting down on me, Bella. Why do you do this? I have told you time and time again I'm here for you, whatever you need..."

I've never been good at confiding in people.

I take a deep breath and blurt out.

"I find it hard, Edward, okay? I'm a private person. I keep myself to myself. And it's been quite a long time since I had a boyfriend, I'm not used to all... this." I throw my hands up in the air in frustration.

My heart is racing. Edward has never been angry at me before. I don't know how to handle this. I have always been poor at confrontations. I try to breathe deeply, but I can feel the walls of the room closing in and my palms getting clammy.

Luckily he seems to pick up on my mini meltdown and takes my hand gently.

"Relax, Bella. Breathe. It's okay. I just want you to open up to me a little. Please?"

He squeezes my hand, slightly.

I nod, cautiously. I have to try. I can't lose him.

"So what did you want to know, Edward?"

"That arsehole, Jacob. He's your ex, right? The one you told me about before." Edward watches me, expectantly.

I nod slowly.

"Yes, he is," I reply, meekly.

"Well then," Edward goes on. "What the bloody hell was he doing at the pub? It was obvious to me he wasn't just dropping by; he was there to cause trouble. I'd like to know what the hell he thought he was playing at." Edward huffs.

Oh if only I knew. I spent most of yesterday trying to figure that out.

"Why exactly did you two break up?" Edward interrupts my train of thought.

Oh crap. I knew he would want to know this, and the thought of re-living that sordid day makes my stomach clench. It's buried deep in my memories and I'd rather it stay there. But Edward wants to know. He wants to try to understand. Hell. I take a deep breath, but procrastination takes over, as always. I decide I need tea. I mention this to Edward and scuttle off downstairs to make us both a cup. While the kettle boils, I ponder what on earth I'm going to say, my mind slipping back in time.

It was Christmas. I had finished college a little earlier than anticipated so I packed up and went straight home. Dad was thrilled to see me. We spent a little time together then he suggested I go over to see Jacob, to surprise him. I dragged my feet a little. Things had been more than a little awkward between us the last time I was home. He resented the time I spent away at college. At least the unannounced visits had ceased.

I drove to the small red brick house, steeling myself for a confrontation. I secretly hoped he wouldn't be home from work yet. As I pulled up outside I noticed not only Jacob's beat-up car, but another one that I didn't recognise.

I knocked several times, but there was no answer. There was loud music blasting from upstairs. Maybe he was in the shower? I noticed the door was unlocked so I walked in. I could wait for him in the kitchen.

"Jacob...," I called out, uncertainly, "Jake...you here?"

No reply. I decided to make myself a cup of tea and wait. Jake's dad had always implied I was to make myself at home.

I sat down at the kitchen table, waiting. If he was having a shower he would be down shortly. I heard a door slam upstairs then footsteps of someone running down the stairs. My brain just started to register that the footsteps sounded far too light to be Jacob when someone burst into the kitchen, wearing just a towel...

A female someone.

Leah Clearwater. Leah sodding Clearwater.

She didn't notice me initially, calling over her shoulder "Jake, no-one's here, it's just that over sensitive hearing of yours..." Then she went abruptly silent.

"Hello, Leah," I spoke, alarmingly coolly. I was amazed any words came out. I felt sick as reality crashed over me and I realised what had been going on upstairs.

Leah didn't speak. She remained frozen in position, eyes boggling in horror.

I had to leave; had to get out of there before I lost it completely. I grabbed my keys and ran for the door, fumbling to get it open.

"Bella, wait," Leah called, "It's not what you think, honest."

Oh please. If it wasn't then why was guilt written all over her face. And she had called herself my friend, my soon to be sister.

"Lee...who you talking to," came a booming voice and a clump of heavy footsteps.

Innocent my ass. Jacob wandered in, towel slung over his hips. I took one look at him and the bile rose. Finally managing to wrench the door open I tore outside, jumped in my car and drove off in a cloud of gravel and exhaust fumes. I barely made it home before I threw up.

I am jolted out of my memories by the click of the kettle as it boils and shuts off. Time to face the music. I finish making the tea and take it back upstairs.

I sit down cautiously, scooting back against the headboard. Edward is quiet, watching me curiously, waiting for me to say something.

"Jacob and I, well it was just a bit of a messy breakup, that's all," I announce, shakily, hoping we can leave it at that. I take a swig of my tea, awaiting Edward's reaction.

"Just a messy breakup?" he repeats. He's not buying it. I can see many more questions in his eyes.

"Messy how?" He probes. Oh bugger. I really don't want to relive it all. I try to brush it off.

"I – I dumped him. He didn't take it well. That's all you need to know," I insist. Hopefully Edward will accept that and leave it be, in the past where it belongs.

"That's all I need to know?" Edward shakes his head. "No. There is much more to this, Bella. He obviously still has feelings for you. Even I could see that," Edward insists.

I notice that look in Edward's eye again, that fire. The pieces are starting to fit together. Edward's passionate declaration of "mine" earlier. He wants to stake a claim. He sees Jacob as a threat. This is another damn pissing contest. I try to squash the resentful feelings that are rising within me.

I'm not some toy to be fought over.

"Edward, after Jacob I never really dated. I trusted him, put my faith in him and he let me down. Afterwards, I swore no one would ever get close to me again. I made a brief lapse in judgement with James. Since then, I've built a wall and no one has really got close. Until you."

I peek across at him, he's obviously not happy, his eyes look troubled.

"I get that, Bella, I really do, but you have to understand I'm here for you. In every way, any way you might need. I love you. Trust me. I can't read your mind. Please let me in?"

"I'm trying, Edward, I am," I insist.

He sighs.

"I don't see that Bella. You shut me out and push me away every time the going gets tough. I feel like you're keeping me at arm's length emotionally."

"Edward, it's just too much for me to cope with at times. You swoop in all superhero like to rescue your damsel in distress. I'm not a weak and feeble damsel. I'm a strong independent woman who is used to being by herself. I can cope."

Edward recoils in horror, as if I've slapped him.

"I'm sorry, Bella. I was just trying to do my best for you. I am new at this, remember. I've never been here before. The one time I thought I might be getting close to someone, well, it never worked out so I walked away. I haven't a clue what I'm doing. And I have this need to protect you,...you mean the world to me. I love you so much. I've never said that to anyone before, outside of my family."

He rests his head in his hands. Oh shit. This is not going well at all. Now I've hurt him. I never meant to do that. And there was an almost girlfriend in the past? This is news. I take his hands in mine and kneel, facing him.

"I'm sorry, Edward, I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. I do appreciate you, truly.. You being here is wonderful, I just need time to adjust. That's all."

He looks up at me, slowly blinking. I can see hurt and confusion in his eyes. Should I have told him that I love him? I gently squeeze his hands. He needs my reassurance. Suddenly it becomes clear.

He needs me.

"I have something to tell you," Edward insists, still looking into my eyes. He pulls gently and I rise; he scoops me into his lap and his arms wrap tightly around me.

"This protectiveness, the way I am? You know I have a sister?"

I nod against his chest. Alice, I think he said her name was.

"Well, she is much younger than me, by five years. And she's always been very small. When she hit her teens, she put on a little weight. She was badly bullied for it. So much that it lead to an eating disorder. She had to change schools several times and has been in and out of hospitals for years."

Now it's my turn to gasp. Rose mentioned a mystery around his sister and how she was never around. Poor Alice. I know exactly what it's like to struggle with your weight. Luckily being tall, I could carry it better.

"I failed, Bella. I failed her. I didn't protect her and I let her down. Now, I need to protect the ones I love. I can't fail again."

"I'm not Alice, Edward." I touch his cheek gently, wanting to comfort him. "And you can't erase the past. You just have to learn from it and move on."

"I know," he states, nodding, then his eyes lock with mine. "Bella, this is me. This is who I am. Cards on the table."

Edward glances at his watch.

"This conversation is not over, Bella, but it's getting late and we both need sleep. Listen, I'm going away, for work next week. I'll be gone from Monday through Friday. I think we both could use some time." He takes a deep breath. "Maybe, when I'm back, we can try to work this out some more."

I swallow hard and murmur "Okay" as I rest my forehead against his. My eyelids are drooping; I'm so tired. We sit there in silence while he holds me gently.

"C'mon you, bed," he murmurs, lifting me and tucking us back under the covers. No more talk for tonight. I glance at the clock. He's right it's now very late indeed.

At least he's staying. For now.

Edward falls asleep quite quickly. I lie still in his arms, listening to his breathing as it deepens and slows. Although I feel exhausted, sleep refuses to come. My mind is racing. My beloved boyfriend isn't as perfect as he seems. He's insecure and flawed; haunted by the past. His sister, this girl from his past who he ran from before they could get close. He's a mixed up bundle of insecurities.

I glance at his peaceful sleeping form. I love him, but where on earth do we go from here?

I eventually drift off in the early hours. When I awake late, I am groggy and disoriented. I stagger downstairs to find Edward is already up, freshly showered and dressed. He makes me a cup of tea and pulls me into his arms for a brief hug, but something seems off.

"I need to get home, sweetheart. Remember, I'm going to be away all of next week? I've a ton of preparation to do that I never managed to get finished yesterday. I'll call you when I'm home on Friday, we can catch up then. Maybe have dinner or something?"

He seems very aloof. Last night, all the walls came down. This morning they are definitely back up, in force.

It's like he's pulling away from me already.

I nod, slowly. I don't have it in me to say more. I'm exhausted after last night and my brain still feels half-asleep. He kisses me briefly and I follow him to the door.

Why do I feel like this is goodbye?

"I'll be in touch," he murmurs and kisses me on the cheek. I watch him walk to his car, unable to tear myself away from the doorway until he has driven off. I slowly shuffle back to the kitchen, flopping down into a chair and slumping over the table, my head falling into my hands.

I sit there for what feels like ages, unable to move. By the time I lift my head, my tea has long since grown cold. I pour it down the sink; I can't face it. My stomach is churning.

I don't know what to do with myself. I can hear my subconscious ticking me off already in my head. Silly Bella, this is exactly why you should never let anyone get close. It gives them the power to hurt you, to break you.

The rest of Sunday passes, somehow. I don't take it in. I'm in a daze.

I want to just lie here and mope, but I know word will get back and Rose will smell a rat if I don't show my face. I eventually shower, dress and go over to the stables. Mercifully there are few people around. I am able to work both my horses around the local lanes without bumping into a soul. When I get back there is no sign of life up at the house. Rose must be gone for the day.

Once home, I lapse into moping. Nothing holds my interest; television, music, books, or work. So I give up and drag myself to bed. I feel exhausted even though it's only seven in the evening. I glance at my phone and am suddenly hit by the reality that Edward has not been in touch all day. Not one word.

Only then do I give in to the tears that have been threatening all day. I'm not a crier but I just can't hold it in any longer.

This hurts so much.

I can't believe how much I miss him after less than one day apart. He has never gone this long without contacting me before.

Maybe he's busy?

My tears give way to sobs as I contemplate the alternative that he doesn't want to talk to me. I think of what he said last night, about how he backed off when he thought he was getting close to someone. I am so scared this is history repeating itself. I'm frankly disturbed that he has managed to get under my skin like this, so easily. I eventually drift off into a fitful, disturbed sleep.

When I wake in the morning my throat is sore and my eyes sticky from dried tears. I look in the mirror and am horrified by my reflection. I'm white as a ghost, with dark shadows under my eyes, which are red and puffy from crying. Simply, I'm a wreck. I can't go anywhere like this.

I drag myself downstairs and make tea and toast. But the tea tastes like dishwater and the toast sticks in my throat. It's like chewing on cardboard.

The day passes. I spend it holed up in the cottage, working. I know I'm neglecting my horses but surely one day won't hurt. I wait until late evening when everyone has gone home and sneak down to the yard to check on them, whispering apologies into Charlie's neck. He whickers softly, laying his head on my shoulder as if in understanding. This brings a fresh bout of tears.

I dash home before I lose it all over again. While tidying up I dislodge a pile of papers and my phone falls to the ground. I buried it earlier in order to stop myself from checking it obsessively every five minutes, waiting for a phone message from Edward that I suspected would never come.

I curse, briefly grabbing the phone from the carpet. I notice the red light is blinking. I press the buttons to bring the phone to life, my heart in my mouth, bracing myself for the crashing disappointment of there being nothing from him again. Miraculously, there is.

*Arrived safely, hope you are well*

This sends my heart soaring then crashing into my boots. Yes, he was thinking of me, enough to let me know he arrived safely. But there are so few words, and he's so formal. Again my fears hit that he is backing off. Before I can stop myself I am writing a reply.

*I'm glad to hear that

Then I stop.

What else do I want to say?

I miss him? I'm desperately lonely and pining without him? I love him?

I can't possibly say that in a text message, can I?

I drop the phone on the table and pace, furiously. I feel like a silly, lovesick teenager obsessing over a boy. I need to choose my words so carefully. After a few minutes of pacing and chewing my lip I finally come up with something acceptable.

*I'm glad you arrived safely. Thinking of you. Hope the trip is good. Looking forward to Friday*

Yes, it's not very eloquent, but the best I can come up with. Then I face the wait for a reply. Fortunately I don't have to wait long. When his reply does arrive, it's very brief.

*Me too *

I send a brief "Goodnight Edward" as I climb into bed. I turn the phone off and try to sleep. This time it's easier than before. Maybe I'm just more tired or more hopeful but whatever, sleep comes and I feel more rested.

Good thing really as today I need to face Rose. I can't avoid her forever. Once I'm up, showered and breakfasted I trudge over to the stables. It's raining, a light drizzle that looks like nothing much but in reality gets you soaked to the bone very quickly. I decide to postpone any riding for now. I have a bigger hurdle to face.

I push the door open, stepping slowly over the threshold and into the kitchen as if I'm going to my execution. I swallow hard and call out.

"Rose – you here?"

Idiot, of course she's here. She confirms this as I wander into the kitchen. One look into those piercing blue eyes of hers and my resolve crumbles. Tears start to flow. I need my Mama Bear.

"Bella!" She crosses the floor in seconds, wrapping me in her comforting embrace. I sob and sob as the dam breaks. She holds me tightly, rubbing my back, until finally my breathing slows and I calm enough to step back. She pats my hand and leads me to the table, putting the kettle on before turning to face me, arms folded, her expression fierce.

"Let's have it then, Bella. I'm guessing Edward's responsible for this. What did the bastard do? Good thing he's away or else I'd be hunting him down to remove his balls and use them for earrings."

I snort a little at Rose's choice of phrase. It's so her; it really is. I shake my head.

"We had a bit of a disagreement..." I venture forth.

"Disagreement? I'll say. I think it's more than that to reduce you to this state, Bella. Let's have it. All of it..."

So I tell her.

After a long discussion and several cups of tea I feel a bit better. Slightly awash maybe, but the tea was needed. Rose has been on the whole, very sympathetic. I don't confide anything specific –. I just tell Rose that Edward isn't perfect. She raises a brow but doesn't press me any further.

She eyes me sternly, squeezing my hand and I know she's about to let me have it.

"I'm sorry, Bella, but I think he has a point."

I gasp, stunned. Rose gives my hand another squeeze and I flee the urge to bolt back to the cottage and sulk.

"Bella, I'm your friend. I'll always be there for you, you know that. But listen, Edward loves you, he's told you so. He's been nothing but honest and giving. I know he pissed you off with the caveman act, but men are like that sweetie. It's obvious how much he cares. You have to let him in before it's too late. Now if you let this man, a good man, slip through your fingers because of foolish pride, when you have a true chance of happiness, then I will throttle you myself, okay?"

Rose relaxes her grip on my hand, but her eyes still bore into mine. She's not going to let this go.

I swallow hard, holding back fresh tears. Deep down I know she's right, on all counts. He bared his soul to me the other night. He loves me. I've been a fool and if I lose Edward I'll only have myself to blame. I can only hope it isn't too late already.

I ponder this a great deal during the rest of Tuesday. As the time ticks by my longing for Edward shows no sign of abating. I am truly a lost and lovesick idiot. We exchange a few more text messages, but again, they are brief and polite.

On Wednesday it rains heavily all day. Once I finish my indoor tasks I hang around Rose's kitchen until she's sick of the sight of me. Finally, exasperated, she calls Jasper over for a 'crisis meeting' as she calls it. In other words, they're ganging up on me.

Jasper arrives late afternoon and insists upon dragging me to the pub. According to him we are both in need of a drink. After several pints and two games of darts we make our way home, a little worse for wear. During the walk, Jasper reassures me several times that Edward is a "Bloody Good Bloke" and how I "shouldn't let him get away as the silly sod is head over heels". Hmm this is intriguing. Jasper seemed a little evasive earlier when I mentioned I hadn't heard from Edward and he seems to know an awful lot about how he feels. I wonder if Edward has done some confiding of his own.

When we stumble through the door, Rose is waiting for us in the kitchen, looking rather amused at our slightly merry state. We share a late dinner and thankfully the conversation turns to other topics, leaving me less browbeaten. Instead we choose to laugh at Jasper as yet again he can't hold his drink.

It gets late and I'm far too fatigued to move from the room let alone shuffle home. I take Rose up on her offer of staying here and am about to just curl up where I sit but Jasper insists I take the spare bed instead while he crashes here. Ever the gentleman. Or maybe just too drunk to move? I heave myself to my feet and go to trudge upstairs but he grabs my arm, pulling me close and murmuring "let him in, Bella" in my ear before playfully ruffling my hair and releasing me.

Once upstairs I collapse on the bed, exhausted. I pull my phone from my pocket and quickly send Edward a goodnight. Thankfully I managed to dissuade Jasper from phoning him as we were walking home. That would not have been a good idea. I fall asleep before any reply arrives.

For some bizarre reason, I'm not too badly hungover the next morning and manage to devour the cooked breakfast Rose places in front of me with a knowing smirk. Once I've eaten and helped clear away I'm just crossing the kitchen in search of my boots when the realization hits me like a ton of bricks.

I can't go on like this another day. I love Edward. I need to talk to him.

I blurt this out immediately.

"Rose. I need Edward. I love him."

"I know, sweetheart. Why don't you ring him?" She steps into the other room to give me some privacy, while remaining close in case I need her.

I grab my phone and I call him. Of course it goes straight to voicemail. I glance at the clock and it's just after nine in the morning. Of course, stupid Bella, he's more than likely in a meeting. I pace the floor, frantically. I have to talk to him. Tell him how much I need him. This can't wait. And it can't be done in a voicemail either. I need a plan.

"Aaargh, Bloody Hell!" I scream out in frustration, throwing my phone but mercifully not breaking it.

"Bella," Rose cries, rushing to my side and taking my hand. "Whatever's the matter? What did he say?"

"I...I need to speak to him Rose, I can't wait til tomorrow. He needs to know how I feel. And his stupid phone's on voicemail. What can I do, short of driving up there?"

Rose studies me intently to see if I'm serious.

"Go to him then, Bella. Do it. Seize the day and all that crap."

"Seriously? But Rose I don't even know where he's staying."

"Where who is staying?" Jasper shuffles into the kitchen, scratching his head and rubbing his eyes. His hair is standing on end and his eyes are bloodshot. He's frankly a mess. Thank heavens he doesn't have any meetings this morning – does he?"

"Oh, the monster awakes from its lair!" Rose gloats. "Need breakfast, brother dear? You do realise its after ten."

"Oh, bollocks," grumbles Jasper. "I better call into the office. Yes, I need tea. And a fried egg sandwich, I think." He nods, stretching.

"Who am I, your bloody slave?" Rose growls as she smacks Jasper around the back of the head. "But we need your brain so I'll let you off. This time."

"You need my brain? Now I'm intrigued." Jasper suddenly seems wide awake. Once he is seated at the table with his greasy breakfast Rose starts the interrogation.

"Edward. We need to find Edward. Where in the name of fudge is he staying, Jasper?"

"What do you need him for?" Jasper stares beady eyed at Rose. "Spill or I'm not telling you anything Rosey Posey."

She glares at him in return.

Oh bloody hell! Why do these two have to start their games? I need answers NOW!

I cough, loudly. Two blonde heads glance up from their battle of wills.

"What?"

"Oh, for heaven's sake! I want to talk to him, Jasper. I can't wait any longer. If you tell me where he is, maybe I can go see him?" I blurt out, hands on hips.

Jasper blinks at me incredulously, mouth gaping. At least he swallowed his bite of sandwich first.

"You really want to do that? Bella he's in Leeds. It's hours away. Are you serious?"

I nod. Now the idea has taken root in my brain I have to act now, before I lose my bottle.

Jasper stares at me and he sees I'm not backing down.

"Right then. Let me finish my breakfast and I'll see what I can do."

An hour later, I'm on my way. I am seen off by Rose and Jasper like proud parents sending their child off on a school trip. I have food and drink, a map and detailed set of directions, and, courtesy of Rose, a smart casual outfit teamed with "kick-ass shoes". Jasper offered me his car but I declined, daunted by his fancy BMW with all its bells and whistles. My little car hasn't let me down just yet.

Three hours later I finally reach Leeds. It's a little after two in the afternoon; I've made great progress. My car has behaved and the roads have been mercifully quiet. Now I just need to locate The Merrion Hotel.. I silently curse the fact that Edward isn't staying at the Hilton as it's the first hotel I pass. Nothing is ever that easy.

The complexity of the one-way system here is mind-boggling. I try to follow the directions to the letter but it's not that simple. I become flustered by the number of rapid turns and lane choices I need to make, making mistakes and soon I'm hopelessly lost. After a complete circuit of the city centre and back out again. I give it another try, but one wrong turn follows another and I become more stressed and panicky by the moment.

I'm never going to find it.

I start to feel like I'm going to be lost in Leeds forever.

Eventually I see a sign for a car park and pull in. Thankfully there's a space. I switch off the engine before my car overheats and sit and study my map. I'll do the rest of this on foot if I have to. I make a brief survey of my surroundings and realise I'm only a few streets away from where I need to be. I take a swig of water and give myself an inner pep talk before setting off again.

This time I manage to make it successfully and pull into the multi-storey car park attached to the hotel. This is it. I check my appearance in the mirror, I don't look too dishevelled. I get out of the car, deciding to leave my bag behind. After all I might not be staying if this goes badly. My stomach lurches at this point.

What if he rejects me?

I squash these negative thoughts. I'm going through with this.

I lock the car and head towards the lifts. A few floors later and I walk through the plush entrance of the hotel. I take a deep breath and approach the front desk.

"Um..hello...I'm looking for Edward Cullen," I mumble nervously.

Once I give the name of Jasper's company, the kindly receptionist is very helpful.

"Okay luv, let's see. Now they were in the conference suite but I think Mr. Cullen went back to his room. Why don't you go on up, duck. You know the room number, yeah?"

I remember Jasper telling me this. Edward is in room 412. I approach the lifts nervously. Edward is only moments away.

The lift chimes announcing my floor and I step out. Okay here goes. I march determinedly down the corridor and am just outside the door of room 412, summoning the courage to knock, when it opens and out strolls the bitch from hell.

Tanya.

What the bloody hell is she doing here?

She jumps slightly as she realises someone is blocking her path. But when she spots me her startled expression turns to a smug smirk.

"Hello, Bella isn't it?" She sneers, looking me up and down. "Nice shoes."

Shoes? I glance down. Oh bugger! The sexy shoes Rose lent me are of course still sitting in my car and I'm still wearing my grotty but comfortable trainers I use for driving. No wonder I got those odd looks while I was in the lobby. I feel my previous confidence evaporating.

"Hello Tanya," I say, coolly. I don't want any arguments.

"So what brings you here?" she queries, a delicately plucked brow raised. "You're a long way from home."

"I'mheretoseeEdward." I blurt out in a nervous rush.

Why am I letting this harpy intimidate me?

"Pardon?" she replies. I glare at her. The bitch heard me perfectly well, I'm sure.

I take a deep breath.

"I'm here to see Edward. It's important. I've driven a long way. So if you don't mind..."

"Actually, I'm afraid that won't be possible," she states, smiling sweetly.

Won't be possible? What is she on?

The receptionist downstairs had no problem with letting me up here.

"Yes, Edward's had a long day. He's exhausted. He explicitly asked not to be disturbed."

She folds her arms, firmly blocking my path, smug expression firmly in place.

My shoulders slump. He's exhausted? I'm exhausted after the hours in the car getting here. And now I can't see him. Why can't I? And why was she looking so damned smug?

Oh no. She didn't. He didn't. They didn't.

I feel a bit sick. I've come all this way and it's like a slap in the face. I turn, about to run back to the car with my tail between my legs. Run away, back home and forget all this ever happened. Obviously this is just not meant to be.

I take two steps down the hallway when I have an epiphany.

Wait a minute...

This might not be what it seems. I remember the last time Tanya kept me from Edward. I can't fall into that trap again. If something is going on, if he really doesn't want to see me then I deserve to hear it from him directly.

I feel like I'm on the edge of a precipice. No, actually it's a water jump and Freddie's refusing to go any further. I can give up and retire or drive him forward. Fight or flight.

I'm not giving up on him. On us. Not just yet.

I stride back towards the door, brushing Tanya aside as if I'm swatting away an annoying insect.

"I said you can't go in there." She sounds infuriated.

I knock on the door and the resulting voice confirms I was correct in one of my assumptions.

"Bloody hell, Tanya, I told you to leave me alone. I don't want company. I'm trying to get some work done here."

Edward sounds furious. He doesn't want her in his room, that's for sure.

I knock again.

"For crying out loud!"

But this time he yanks the door open and pops his head out with a furious glare.

"I said no bloody interr..." His voice dies off as he sees me. He stands, frozen, mouth gaping open.

"Bella," he whispers.

I look into his eyes and see everything I want. I don't waste words. I hurtle into his arms before he can stop me. He seems a little surprised by my attack, but he opens his arms and clutches me to him, tightly.

I take a deep breath, inhaling his Edward smell. Just like that, I am home. I know there's nowhere else I want to be but right here in his arms.

He steps back, pulling me through the door and closes it behind us. Right in Tanya's face.

"So," he murmurs, still holding me tight. "What brings you here? Not that I'm complaining."

I lift my head from the security of his chest, gazing up at him and speak the words I need to say.

"Edward. I love you more than anything. I trust you. I need you."

He blinks at me incredulously before pulling me close and pressing his lips to mine.

A/N

I know, a bumper chapter and no lemon. Please don't throw things...

Where do I start? Thank you to everyone who stuck by me during the long wait for an update. And welcome to my new readers. I really do appreciate your reviews and wish I could reply to more of them.

Huge grovelling thanks to my top team of annetteinoz, JAustenlover and EMCxo who did a sterling job of whipping this beast into shape. Also big love to my two new prereaders Jadedtigger and Toni0204. If you aren't reading their fics, take a look, please?

And on that subject, here's a bumper rec list. I'm not going to choose all the obvious stuff that everyone is reading but instead a few lesser known fics by some dear friends of mine.

The Count of Tuscany by withany

This is a cracking vampfic that has me constantly guessing what will happen next.

Come Dance With Me by love2read30

New fic by the author of Opposites Attract with another intriguing plotline

A Desperate Housewife's Escape by SweetLovinCullen

Love this. Gardenerward is hot too.

Loved & Lost by TwiLucy-UK

Sweet vulnerable Edward in this one. Silly Edward...

The Phantom Vampire by

PhantomoftheOperaWard. Need I say more? Fascinating.

Hidden Affairs by Jhrbrown

I don't usually read Jasper fics but this has me hooked despite only being one chapter in. Give it a chance.

For those who didn't have me on author alert, check out my profile. Cuddleward now has two EPOV outtakes uploaded. Hope you enjoy them. Also I posted my prize winning entry from the Real Love Contest, it's called Granny Pants and might give you a laugh to make up for all the angst in this chapter.

Til next time.

HKP