AN: Hello there! First off, I need to thank Moni and Bree (Grope-Worthy Cullen and Bree Roe on FB) for their hard work Beta'ing and being my sounding boards! I love them both so much! Secondly, I was thinking about apologizing to my Verucas on Facebook for teasing them with quotes all week, but then I changed my mind because I know you love it!
Lastly, new pictures of people and places went up on the Blog (kitsushel. blogspot. com) for this chapter! I also put up a contest entry in which I had written with my first lemon, called The Cake Boss! I've already had comments about what/what not to carry over into Parachute, lol!
Love you guys and I hope you enjoy the chapter! Teasers for Chapter 12 will go out on Monday as usual!
"Well, hello there."
Bella's eyes were locked on his green ones and her heart began racing a mile a minute. He was even more handsome in real life. His copper hair had a slight shine to it in the light and his body was lean, with a hint of muscle underneath his dress shirt. She was pulled from her gazing by Esme, who rushed over to his side and starting speaking in quiet tones. She couldn't hear what was being said, but she watched as his smile fell and his eyes grew darker and cut to her side, where Jack was seated. His face contorted in an odd combination of anguish and elation. He quickly brushed past Esme and walked over to the couch.
He dropped to his knees in front of Jack and reached out slowly to cup his face. She watched as two tears dripped down from his eyes as he tenderly stroked the boy's cheeks. Bella glanced down at her son and saw that he was grinning widely and his eyes were transfixed on his father's face. A smile broke out on Edward's face and he gently pulled Jack into his arms.
"Jackson," Edward sobbed and he clutched his son to him tightly.
"Daddy," Jack cried into his father's shoulder. "I missed you."
"Oh, my God," Edward cried hoarsely. "I love you so much. I never thought I'd see you again!"
Bella wiped the tears from her eyes and looked away, feeling like she was intruding on their intimate moment. Her gaze swept over the room's other occupants, who were also in tears. Emmett couldn't tear his eyes off of his brother and newly found nephew, while Rosalie held onto her husband around his waist. Esme was leaning onto Carlisle, her eyes also glued to the father and son reunion. Her eyes flicked over to Carlisle and his gaze met hers. He smiled sadly and nodded to her. It was as if he knew how difficult this was for her and was trying to comfort her. She couldn't be sure that that was his intention, but she would take comfort where ever she could at this point.
After a few minutes, Edward and Jack's tears started to recede. Edward sat back on his knees and kept staring into Jack's face, as if he were afraid that the boy might disappear at any moment.
"I can't believe it. The detectives told us that we should move and make peace, but I wouldn't, I couldn't believe that you were gone forever."
Jack smiled softly at his father.
"I'm okay. I've been loved and I'm happy."
Jack looked up at his mother and smiled widely, his entire aura radiating with love and adoration towards her. Edward followed his son's gaze and eyed Bella suspiciously.
"And who are you?" he asked with a slight tone of indignation, which was a complete 180 from how he had looked at her at first.
"She's my mother," Jack answered matter-of-factly.
Edward's eyes flew back and forth from Bella to Jack and then back again, questioningly.
"I don't understand. Your mother's name is Victoria. Is this a form of Stockholm Syndrome?" he threw at Bella.
Esme gasped and Bella's jaw dropped open in shock. She was completely floored that this man would think that she had kidnapped his son, only to show up on his doorstep five years later.
"Excuse me?" Bella asked, incredulously. "How dare you? You know nothing about us!"
Jack shot a confused glance between his father and the woman he considered to be his mother.
"What's that mean?" he asked. "What's Stockholm Syndrome?"
Bella kept her irate glare on Edward as she answered Jack's question.
"It's where kidnap victims start to love and care about their abductors."
Jack's eyes widened in surprise.
"Are you serious? Mom didn't kidnap me! Her and Pops saved me!" he cried out.
"Pops?" Edward asked, raising an eyebrow.
"My father," Bella answered. She thought for a moment before adding, "He's a police chief."
"Oh, so I'm guessing that he was instrumental in helping you get away with this? Making sure that you didn't get into trouble?" he asked, angrily.
Bella felt her hackles raise and her hand itched to slap this beautiful, arrogant jackass across his face.
"Edward!" Esme spoke authoritatively. "Enough. Hold your tongue until you know the full story. If you keep up with this attitude, well, let's just say that you're not too old to be put over my knee!"
He looked properly chastised and glanced back at Bella, who was still glaring at him slightly.
"I apologize, ma'am. Please forgive my assumptions and tell me how you came to be in possession of my son," he said to her, sounding very ingenuous. She also didn't fail to notice the emphasis that he put on the word my.
Bella closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to stay calm. She knew that somewhere inside of this man was a kind and caring father, who's heart had been ripped to shreds five years ago. Wounds like that were deep and they had a tendency to fester. She knew that he was only worried about Jack and she wanted to be patient with him. She re-opened her eyes and tried to keep an indifferent look upon her face, but it was difficult.
She had never had this type of reaction to a man before. She wanted to punch him in the face and then kiss it all better. Now was definitely not the time for her long-dormant hormones to surface. Being attracted to Jack's father was not something that she wanted to deal with right now, especially when his view of her was so poor.
"I accept your apology, Mr. Cullen. I can not begin to understand how you must feel, nor what you have gone through. If you can hold off on your judgement and listen with an open mind, I will be happy to tell you everything that I know."
She tried to smile at him, but she was sure it looked more like a grimace. He nodded and moved to sit on the couch in the other spot next to Jack.
He reached out took one of Jack's hands and held onto it as if it were a lifeline. Bella took a deep breath and started to re-tell their tale once again.
Thirty minutes later, Edward sat next to Jack shaking his head, in both incredulity and anger.
"This can't be possible," he said irately. "We hired the best detectives and combed everywhere we could think of. Nothing ever came to light."
Bella sat thoughtful for a moment.
"If I may ask," she interjected, "who was the person primarily in contact with the detectives?"
Edward's eyes shot to hers, wide with surprise.
"Victoria," he said quietly. Bella nodded.
"It seems to me like she didn't want Jack to be found. I'm not trying to be rude here, but why didn't you have a bigger role in this, other than funding it?" she asked as gently as she could.
Edward's eyes burned brightly and furiously into her.
"I was heart broken," he half-growled. "Vicki was never the mothering type, so I did everything for my son. Bathed him, dressed him, fed him. All on top of working my ass off to provide for them. When Jack disappeared, Vicki took the lead in the effort to find Jack. She felt guilty because it happened on her watch. I curled up in a corner with a bottle of Jack and cried my heart out," he sighed and rubbed his eyes.
Bella felt her heart crack for everything that he had been through. From all of Jack's memories that he had to share, he had always painted his father as loving and amazing. She couldn't begin to imagine the agony he had felt when he found out that his son had disappeared.
Bella bit the corner of her bottom lip and reached out to touch his hand in comfort. Edward jerked his away as if he had been burnt. Her eyes widened and she looked up, only to see his emerald ones blazing at her in anger yet again.
"Don't touch me," he snarled. "You have no idea what we've been through."
Her anger spiked once again and this time, she couldn't hold it back.
"Are you freaking serious?" she yelled. "Do you think any of this was easy for us? I was nineteen. Nineteen, dammit! I worked and went to school and cared for a lost and scared three year old! I practically put my own life on hold in order to give him the love and comfort that he deserved."
She jumped quickly to her feet, her hands shaking at her side in anger. She started to pace slightly in front of the couch, trying to will herself to calm, but it wasn't working.
"I could have left him at that police station and let the damn state take care of it, but I didn't. I stood up and chose to do it. I had to make difficult decisions on a daily basis. Things that I shouldn't have had to worry about, but I did. Because I loved him. For the past five goddamned years, I've loved him and I've made sure that he was fed and clothed and taken care of. I made sure that he had to best education that I could afford and that he knew that he was loved. I've bled, sweat and cried over this child. So screw you, Mr. Cullen, and the horse you rode in on," she seethed in fury.
She stopped and looked down at the twin sets of green eyes on the couch. All of her anger dissipated immediately when she saw the tears on Jack's face. It was her turn to drop down to her knees and she hung her head.
"Not once. Not one time have I ever regretted taking him in. I love him more than my own life and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I know you're angry, but I swear upon my life that we did everything that we could think of to find you. Every legal action that we took, we followed the law. It's all well-documented. We even attended therapy for years to help both Jack and I cope with the situation."
She looked up at Edward, who's eyes were wide and no longer filled with anger, but with tears.
"I swear to you, that I did everything I could," she implored him in a voice that was hoarse. Edward closed his eyes and breathed deeply.
No longer being able to stand seeing his mother in pain, Jack threw himself into her arms and squeezed her. He ran his hands through her hair, like she had done to him many a time.
"Sshh, please don't cry anymore, Mom," he said softly in her ear. "I'm sorry I've made things so hard for you."
Bella started to sob at that point.
"You silly boy," she whispered. "You didn't make it hard. You made it perfect. You are my life, Jack, and I would never change a thing."
Jack continued to whisper and soothe his mother while his father watched the scene quietly.
Bella pulled away from him after a few minutes and rubbed her face with her hands. When she looked around, she noticed that the room was conspicuously empty, apart from Edward. He cleared his throat and stood, offering her his hand to help her up. When she was back on her feet, she chanced a look at Edward's face. He looked nothing but sad and resigned at that moment. He smiled slightly and took her hand.
"Let's start over, please. I'm Edward Cullen, it's a pleasure to meet you."
Bella nodded her head and squeezed his hand. "Bella Swan, the pleasure is mine."
Before either could get another word out, Esme interrupted.
"Bella? Jack? Why don't you guys come into the kitchen? You must be starving after your long trip."
Edward looked apprehensive, almost like he had something else he wanted to say to her, but Jack's grumbling stomach made it a moot point.
The boy's ears turned pink and he smiled sheepishly. Bella smiled and reached out for his hand. Jack entangled his fingers with hers and they followed Esme into the kitchen. She glanced over her shoulder, only to see Edward still standing where they left him, wearing an indecipherable look upon his face. She quickly turned her gaze forward and was immediately enveloped in awe. The kitchen was much bigger than she had originally thought. She ran her hand over the marble top in a gentle caress. There was a tray full of sandwiches, condiments and chips resting at one end of the island.
"Emmett," Esme addressed her younger son, "please take the food out to the solarium."
He smiled and nodded. He picked up the tray and he walked through a set of doors off to the side of the room. Esme turned and smiled at Bella and Jack.
"What would you dears like to drink? We have just about anything that you'd want. Water, soda, iced tea, lemonade or I could make some coffee."
"Lemonade would be fine," Bella answered softly, looking down at Jack, who nodded in confirmation. Esme grinned and took some glasses out of a cabinet and placed them on a tray. She walked over into the enormous refrigerator and pulled out a glass pitcher of lemonade, which looked to be homemade with lots of lemon slices floating in it.
Jack stepped over to her and took the pitcher from her hands.
"Let me help, please," he smiled at his grandmother, who beamed right back at him. Esme looked over at Bella with a teary gaze.
"Such a gentleman," she remarked. Bella snorted and then covered her mouth in embarrassment.
"Sorry," she giggled slightly. "He is a little gentleman, when he wants to be. He helps out, holds doors and let's women go first. Unless it's a fight for the last cupcake or to get to the tv first, he's golden."
"That's so not true," Jack laughed, while shaking his head.
"Oh, don't even," Bella argued back, laughing now herself.
Esme looked between the pair of them, adoring the way they interacted.
"Come on now, let's have some lunch. I want to hear more about your lives!" Esme tried to cheerfully interject, picking up the tray of glasses. Bella and Jack followed her through the door into the solarium. The room was practically made of glass, ceiling and walls with wooden trim and accents. A large table with a beautiful center piece sat in the center of the room, surrounded by comfy chairs. Rosalie stood placing plates around the table, while Emmett picked from the tray of food, thinking that no one was looking.
"Emmett, please, act like a grown up?" Esme asked, smiling. Carlisle sat at the head of the table, shaking his head.
"Mae, he's Rosalie's problem now, dear," he laughed.
"Thanks a lot, Carlisle," Rosalie grimaced.
Emmett looked at Bella and Jack and rolled his eyes playfully. Bella sat on Carlisle's right, with Jack sitting between her and Esme, who sat at the opposite end as her husband. The seat directly across from Bella was empty and Emmett sat in the middle with Rosalie sitting on Esme's right.
Emmett leaned across the table and looked directly at Bella.
"I want to apologize for earlier, Bella," he said earnestly. "It's been a very emotional day and I did not mean to make you feel threatened. I just panicked at the thought of you leaving so quickly. We were all heart broken-"
He cut himself off and cleared his throat, before he became too emotional. Bella reached out to touch his hand and gave him a small smile.
"I completely understand. No apologizes are necessary. I knew this was going to be hard for everyone, which is why I wanted to do it in person."
"Really? You thought that coming here and blindsiding us was a better choice?" his velvet voice spoke from behind Bella. She closed her eyes as a tingling sensation washed over her. When she opened them, Edward was sliding into the empty chair across from her. He looked her dead in the eye as he waited for an answer.
Bella chewed on her bottom lip as she thought of a response.
"It was a very emotional moment when we discovered your whereabouts," she explained calmly. She looked directly in his eyes. "The only phone number that my investigator could come up with was your business number. I'll be honest, I was nervous and too frightened to call you at work and explain everything over the phone. We weren't 100% sure that Jack was your son, although I'd say we were 98% certain.
"Could you imagine getting that call from someone who couldn't give you an absolute certainty that your little boy was found? God forbid if we were wrong, it would have torn your heart apart again," she implored him with her eyes to believe her.
Edward blinked and looked away. Bella looked down at her hands resting in her lap and sighed. She felt Jack's hand touch one of hers and she looked over at him. He gave her a smile that was so similar to his father's that it was uncanny. She had only seen Edward Cullen's smirk the one time and it was forever emblazoned in her memory now. She smiled back at him in silent communication.
In an attempt to ease the tension in the room, Carlisle cleared his throat a bit as he started to fill up his plate.
"So, Isabella," he asked, "what do you do with your time when you're not writing?"
Bella finished chewing her bite of ham and cheese sandwich before answering.
"I own a bookstore/cafe and am a silent partner in my best friend's clothing boutique."
"Ah, so you're a bit of an entrepreneur?"
Bella smiled and shook her head.
"No, it all kinda fell into my lap. I worked at the bookstore for a couple of years before the owner decided to retire. I had the capitol to take it over, so I did. Alice was saving up every penny that she earned and refused to marry her fiance until they were financially stable. With the money that I had made from the books, I was in a good position to help her. She would have done the same for me."
Edward scoffed and she looked over at him.
"Is there something wrong with that?"
Edward narrowed his eyes at her and responded in a cold voice.
"It sounds like you've put forth a lot of money into these ventures. Wouldn't it have been a better choice to maybe invest some of that money in your future?"
Her anger started to simmer in her veins once again. She flexed her left hand into a fist while her right was still captured in Jack's warm embrace.
She took a deep breath in through her nose.
"Yes, it was a lot of money to spend, but it was worth every penny. I have a retirement account set up for myself as well as a college savings account for Jack with about 250 grand sitting in it. We're quite comfortable."
She leveled a cold glare at him. Every time she felt like she had made headway with him, it was like they took two steps back instead.
The table sat quiet as everyone ate in silence. When they were all just about finished, Esme and Rosalie cleared some dishes from the table and disappeared into the kitchen.
"Well," Carlisle smiled, "Bella, would you like to take a tour of the house?"
She smiled and nodded, happy to escape the uncomfortable silence. She and Jack followed Carlisle out of the room and into the living room again.
"As you can see, this is our living room. The doors behind the pool table lead to an outdoor patio and our pool." He walked over to a set of doors that were parallel to the kitchen and opened them to reveal an office. Inside was a large oak desk with bookshelves behind it. There were several chairs resting in the room and a table full of family pictures.
"This is the office. Edward uses it mostly at night when he's home."
Bella gave a Carlisle a curious look. "He lives here?" she asked.
"Yes, he has for a little over four years now," Carlisle answered sadly. "It's not my story to tell."
"Of course," Bella nodded quickly.
He led them back to the living room and up the staircase to the first floor.
"There are four bedrooms on this floor. Esme and I have the master bedroom, Emmett has one for when he and Rosalie visit and there's one guest room. Edward lives on the third floor." Carlisle stopped in front of a room and hesitated before opening the door. Inside, the room was painted in shades of blue with a sports theme. He looked nervously at Jack.
"This is your room. We never lost hope that you'd come home to us one day. Esme wouldn't let anyone in here. She comes in to dust once a month and I usually find her sitting on the bed staring at pictures."
Bella felt tears prick her eyes picturing poor Esme mourning her grandson for the past five years. She looked over at Jack who had a smile on his face as he glanced around the room.
"It's very cool, PopPop."
Carlisle gasped at hearing Jack call him that and put his hand over his mouth. Jack walked over and hugged him instinctively. Bella felt something tighten in her chest at the tearful sight and blinked her tears away.
Carlisle cleared his throat again and he ushered them to the last door on the second floor. He turned to Bella and smiled.
"I have a feeling that this will be your favorite."
Bella smiled and wait for him to ceremoniously open the door. Her jaw dropped straight to the floor as she gazed into the coolest library that she had ever seen. She walked into the room with shelves lined around it. The middle of the room was open, surrounded by a railing. She walked over and gazed down into a room below them. Those walls were also filled with books and there were a few large comfy-looking chairs in the center of the floor. She looked around in amazement.
"The stairs are over there," Carlisle smiled and pointed to the opposite corner. She quickly walked over and carefully made her way down the spiral staircase. There were a pair of glass doors that lead out to a patio. She looked up at Carlisle and Jack and grinned up at them.
"You were right, Carlisle," she laughed. "I think I'm in love."
After Bella had had her fill of lusting over the Cullen's library, the three of them headed back to the living room, where Esme awaited them. She smiled and sat the book she was reading on the couch before standing.
"Did you enjoy your tour?" she asked, smiling.
Both Jack and Bella smiled and nodded.
"You have a beautiful house," Bella answered.
"Thank you, dear," Esme answered.
Suddenly, Bella yawned, trying to cover it behind her hand. She looked at the time on her watch and saw that it was almost four o'clock in the afternoon. The flight and traveling had taken a lot out of her.
"Excuse me," she said after a second yawn. "I'm sorry, but I think we need to be getting to our hotel."
"You're leaving?" an angry voice called from the other side of the room. Bella looked up and saw Edward striding over to where they stood. Bella nodded.
"Yeah, we have a reservation at the Trump. It's been an exhausting day and we should get some rest."
She looked into Edward's panicked face and her heart completely shattered this time.
"We'll be back tomorrow. I promise."
The panic started to ease, but it didn't disappear completely.
"Oh, dear, that's totally unnecessary!" Esme exclaimed. "You are more than welcome to stay here. We have plenty of room."
Bella's eyes widened as she contemplated the consequences of doing just that. The Cullen's would have more time with Jack, but Bella was still unsure as to whether or not that was a good idea.
"Oh please, Bella," Esme practically begged. "It's a much nicer solution all the way around! I would love to spend more time with both you and Jack!"
She felt what little resistance she had melt when Esme gave her a little pout. Bella looked down at Jack and smirked.
"So that's where you get that from," she joked. Jack smiled widely.
She sighed and squatted down so that she was eye level with him.
"It's your call. We'll stay here if you want or we'll go to the hotel. I'm good with whatever you're comfortable with."
Jack looked up at his grandparent's happy smiles and then at his father's anxious face. His eyes slid back into his mother's gaze.
"It's fine. We can stay here if that's cool," he looked at her expectantly. She nodded in approval and stood up.
"Thank you, Esme, we'd be happy to stay here."
Her eyes connected with Edward's once again, but this time they were completely blank as they stared right back at her.
'Please let this not be a mistake.' she thought to herself.