AN: Just a thank you to each and every person who reads this story! I *heart* you all! As always, each and every review gets a teaser on Monday, in addition to the ones that get posted on the blog!
A few people have mentioned that they didn't know that there were Outtakes! Why, yes, yes there are! A new just happened to post the other day, too!
Love you guys and see you next Friday!
June 22, 2010
The next morning was a hectic blur of activity. During dinner last night, Alice had decided that the group should split up into girls and boys the next day for some bonding time. After quick calls to Esme and Rose, everything was all set. The men and Jack would check out the skatepark and batting cages while the women would have some spa time and do a little shopping. Bella groaned internally, but went along because she liked the idea of Alice getting to know the Cullens.
Before she made her way downstairs for breakfast, Bella picked up her phone to make a call to her dad. It had been too late to call when they got in last night, so she figured she'd do it now. She looked at the clock and saw that it was just about 8:30 am in Chicago, so she should be able to catch him before he left for work. After several rings, a sleepy voice answered.
"Seth? What are you doing up at 6:30 in the morning?"
"Well, I was sleeping before my annoying sister woke me up," he laughed. "Mornin' Bella, is everything okay?"
"Yeah, everything's fine. I just wanted to talk to Dad before he left for work."
"Sure, sure. Hang on a sec, and I'll take him the phone."
She heard shuffling in the background and the opening of a door.
"Hey, Seth?" She asked.
"What's this I hear about you giving out Jake's number to unsuspecting girls? That's pretty messed up, bro."
"That little rat!" Seth laughed. "It was his old number. It was the only thing I could think of, off the top of my head. I'm not that much of a douche that I'd send a girl off to a potential rapist, Bells."
Bella cringed at hearing the last part of his sentence. Even though it was over and in the past, that day still showed up in her nightmares from time to time.
"How did Jack know that it was Jake's number anyway? I was wondering about that."
"Oh, he asked if I really gave her my number, and I said no. When he asked who's it was, I just answered without thinking. Then I explained that it was kind of a stupid thing to do and that he should never do something like that."
"Right, uh huh. Are you going to be a bad influence on my son, Seth?" She joked.
"Who, me? Nah, you know I'm just about perfect."
She laughed and shook her head. She smiled when she heard her dad crack a comment about how perfect his speeding ticket last week was.
"Oh hey, Seth, one more question."
"Why didn't you tell me that Jake was out of jail?"
"Oh, look at the time. I really need to get back to my beauty sleep. Love you, sis! Here's Charlie."
Bella rolled her eyes at Seth's duck-and-cover routine.
"Mornin' baby girl. Is everything okay?" Charlie asked in his gruff, yet warm voice.
"Everything is fine, Daddy," she said quietly. "I wanted to talk to you about something though."
"What's up, Bells? How can I help?"
"You can start by telling me the truth. When did Jake get out of jail? And why didn't you tell me?"
"How did you find out? Did Seth spill his guts?"
"No, you did."
"I'm not following you," he said in confusion.
"Jack mentioned that he overheard you telling Sue that before we left. Can you please answer me? I deserve to know."
"He got out around four months ago. He was a model prisoner and since it was his first time, they let him out early on probation. Billy refused to let him move back home plus he didn't want any trouble from me, so he's in Olympia now. I had a little chat with him and he's promised to stay away from you. I've got some connections down there who are keeping an eye on him. I didn't see any reason to worry you, baby."
Bella felt a shiver run down her spine at the mention of Olympia, but she pushed it off to the side for now.
"I understand why you did it, Dad, but that was something that I really should have known."
"You're right, I should have told you. I'm sorry, Bells. I was just trying to look out for you," he responded sadly.
"I know, Dad. Look at it this way, at least I would have been prepared and knew to stay away from Olympia or been more careful."
Her and Jack's last trip to Olympia a few months ago ran through her head. The feeling of being watched through the store's window and the flash of black hair she saw started to make sense and it chilled her to the bone. She swallowed and tried not to think about it now.
"I'll let you go, Daddy. We have some outings planned today and I've got to give a kick start," she giggled.
"All right. I'm sorry again, baby. Give Jack a hug, and tell him that Pops said 'hello'. Love you guys."
"I'll tell him to give you a call later. We love you, too," Bella replied before hanging up.
She took a deep breath and tried to clear her thoughts before waking up Jack. That proved to be moot when he suddenly flew into her room in his pajamas and his hair askew. He was grinning and his eyes were wide with joy.
"Good morning there, kiddo," she laughed.
"Hi Mom! I'm going to the skatepark today!" He practically shouted. She could feel the excitement vibrating off of him.
She grinned right back at him and hugged him tightly.
"You sure are. Make sure you don't let your Dad break anything, okay?"
Jack giggled and nodded.
"Okay, let's head down and eat some breakfast before we get ready, okay? What are you in the mood for?"
"Cereal is fine with me!"
He grabbed her hand and they walked silently down to the kitchen. A little while later, they finished up and cleaned their bowls and spoons. When they entered the living room, Emmett and Edward were standing off to the side of the room in a heated discussion. She looked over at Jack and nudged him towards the stairs.
"Why don't you go get ready?"
He looked back at the two men questioningly before smiling up at her. His happiness to get back on his board was coming off of him in waves. He nodded and took off running up the stairs. Bella turned her attention back on the brothers, who were now silent and watching her. When she met Edward's eyes, he grinned and walked over to her.
"Good Morning, Bella."
"Morning, Edward. Hello, Emmett," she said softly.
"Hey," he responded somewhat reluctantly. She felt her hackles start to raise, but tried to stamp them down by joking around. She turned towards Edward and grinned.
"Are you sure you're up this, old man? Jack will probably wear you out in an hour," she teased.
He laughed and shook his head.
"I may be out of practice, but I'm pretty sure I can keep up with an eight year old."
She scoffed and rolled her eyes playfully.
"It's that kind of attitude that will get you into trouble, Mr. Cullen. I know these kind of things," she mock-whispered while tapping her temple.
Bella laughed brightly during their back and forth banter, but noticed Emmett's stiff posture out of the corner of her eye. She bit her lip and decided that there was no time like the present to find out just what his problem was. She looked up into Edward's face and smiled.
"Do you think you could go check on Jack, to make sure he remembers his helmet and pads? He has a tendency to forget things when he gets excited."
Edward nodded and grinned before turning and heading up the stairs. When he was out of sight, she whirled to face Emmett and put her hands on her hips.
"What is your problem?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," he replied in a voice as blank as his face. She narrowed her eyes and took a step forward, so she wouldn't have to raise her voice.
"Yes, yes you do. I want to know what problem you have with me, that makes you feel the need to glower at the back of my head whenever you don't think I'm looking. Pretty soon Edward or Jack are going to notice, too, and I'll be damned if I let that happen. Both of them have already been hurt too much without adding you to the pile."
Emmett drew a deep breath in through his nose and leaned towards her. His eyes flashed in anger.
"You don't know what the hell you're talking about, little girl. You don't know," he swallowed thickly, "anything."
She straightened her posture and glared at him, determinedly.
"You're right, I don't know what has you so upset, and I can't fix it unless you tell me."
"You can't do anything," he scoffed. His eyes narrowed and he pursed his lips. "On second thought, there is one thing you could do. Leave."
She was taken aback at the vehemence in his voice.
"Leave here and don't come back. Leave my nephew here with his family, where he belongs."
Bella whirled around when she heard Edward's growl form behind her. He was standing on the bottom stair, glowering angrily at his brother. She felt a burning sensation in her gut and wondered if there was something wrong with her for thinking that Edward looked incredibly hot when pissed off.
"Edward, I'm sorry," she started to stammer, "I didn't mean to-"
His gaze swung to her and its intensity cut her off mid-sentence. His gaze softened when her eyes widened. He gave her a sad smile and shook his head.
"Don't," he started to say before pausing. "Don't apologize for standing up for yourself. He had no right to speak to you that way."
He turned and glared at Emmett again.
"She is Jack's mom, every bit as much as Esme is ours. Do you think any less of me because I was adopted? She's part of our family now and there's nothing you or anyone else can to take that away. Haven't you thought of what it would do to Jack if she just left him here? Trust me, no one wants Jack to leave their sights ever again more than I do, but in his eyes, Bella is his mom. Anyone with eyes can see that. Forcing them apart will only shatter his heart. He's already been through more than anyone should have to deal with, especially a child. For Christ's sake, Em, what do I have to do to get through to you? You need to apologize to her. Right now!"
Emmett just stared blankly at him, allowing no emotion to show on his face.
"Apologize," Edward ground out between his closed teeth.
Emmett looked her dead in the eye and spoke in the most sarcastic tone that she had ever heard.
"I'm sorry for upsetting you, Bella. Please, feel free to take Jack away at any point and break all of our hearts again."
She gasped and Edward took a step towards Emmett. She put her hand on his arm to stop him and Edward looked at her in confusion.
"Don't fight with your brother over me, please."
He looked at her as if she had lost her mind.
"Look, trust me on this? Please?"
Edward eyed her warily and stepped back away from Emmett, who just stood there, looking confused.
Bella turned to him and sighed.
"Can we please talk privately? This shit needs to be hashed out before I lose my mind."
Emmett narrowed his eyes and nodded. He gestured towards the study and Bella started to walk away when she felt Edward grab her arm.
"What are you doing?" he asked quietly. She smiled slightly at him.
"I'm trying to mend some fences here. Have faith."
He started to run his hands through his hair and pace.
"Edward," she said calmly. He looked up at her with panicked eyes. "Calm down. It's okay."
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"I just don't want you to get hurt," he said quietly. "I mean, he won't physically hurt you, that's not in his nature. I just don't want him saying hurtful things to you. It's bad enough that I did that when we first met, Bella. I just, I can't, I don't have the words."
His eyes implored hers for understanding. She smiled and leaned up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek.
"It'll be fine, Edward. I'm a big girl."
She walked away from his stunned face and into the study with Emmett, who shut the door firmly behind him. He turned and gazed at her with eyes that were finally overflowing with emotion. He ran his hand roughly through his short-cropped hair, in a manner eerily similar to his brother.
"I'm sorry," he choked out. A few tears dripped down his face and Bella's anger from earlier melted.
"She broke him. She tore his heart out and lost his son. He's never been the same." He continued to stumble over his words, his tears streaming down his face now.
"I was his best man and I stood by and let him marry that bitch. We all knew she was wicked, but no one wanted to hurt him. Even when she wanted nothing to do with Jack, we all stood by and did nothing because Edward was content with that. His son was all he needed. When Jack disappeared, a part of him died. Anyone who knew him before could see it clear as day. I failed. I failed as a brother and an uncle. I fucking failed as human being."
Tears trickled from Bella's eyes, but she couldn't bring herself to interrupt him.
"He's been completely closed off for years. Now, you waltz in, and it's like the past five years never happened. He's himself again. And it's not just because of Jack. It's you, too. He's falling for you, and you're going to break him. Just like she did. And I'm not going to be able to stand by and watch that again. I just can't see that happen again."
His wide, wet eyes begged hers to understand. She felt her heart break and walked over to where he was leaning against the desk. She placed her head on his chest, over his steadily beating heart and closed her eyes.
"I won't hurt him, Em, I promise," she whispered. "Even when we go back home at the end of the summer, I won't take Jack away from you. You guys will always be a part of his life," she swore adamantly. Emmett reached around and wrapped his arms around her shoulders, rested his head on top of hers and continued to cry.
"I've been an ass and I owe you a huge apology Bella. Both Ed and Rosie have been trying to make me see that, and I stubbornly refused. I hope you can forgive me someday."
She wrapped her arms around his waist and sighed.
"I'm not gonna lie, it hurt. Especially because I did nothing to deserve it. It was rude and unfair and just plain mean, Emmett. I can't forgive you right away, but give me a little time, okay? We can move forward from here. Edward was right, we're family now. Family means that nobody gets left behind or forgotten."
Emmett pushed her away and looked down at her with surprise on his splotchy face.
"Did you seriously just quote Lilo and Stitch to me?" He asked incredulously.
Bella stepped away from him to allow him to straighten himself.
"I'm a mom to an eight year old. What's your excuse for knowing that's what it was from?" She winked at him and giggled.
He blushed and then grinned.
"I like you, girl. I'm sorry I've wasted time in seeing that," he said as he bumped her shoulder.
"So," she said as she walked towards the door, "we're good?"
He stopped and looked at her seriously before smiling.
She smiled back and found Edward still pacing in the living room. When he saw her, his relief was eminent across his face.
"Are you okay?"
Emmett's words filtered through her head once again, as she looked up into Edward's worried eyes.
"It's you, too. He's falling for you..."
She wondered if it was really possible that this wonderful man was seeing her that way. She certainly knew that she was in danger of falling hard for him. Could he really be feeling the same?
"Yeah, everything is fine. I told you it'd be okay."
She smiled and he sighed. He searched her eyes to make sure that she was telling the truth. Satisfied with what he found, he nodded.
"I'm going to finish getting ready. Are you okay?"
She nodded and watched him turn away, with one last sideways glance at his brother. Emmett looked over at her and laughed softly.
"I told you that he has it bad," he whispered. Her heart skipped a beat and she felt her face flush.
"I've got to get ready. Where's Rose, by the way?"
He shrugged sheepishly.
"I was in a bad mood this morning, so she didn't want to drive over with me. She's going to meet you girls at the spa."
Bella shook her head and patted his shoulder.
"Good luck with that, Em," she called as she headed upstairs.
Two hours later, Bella found herself in the middle of the best massage of her entire life. Esme was right next to her and the groans coming from that woman were almost obscene. There were a few times when Bella might have giggled if she hadn't been making the same noises. Alice and Rose were seated across the room getting manicures and pedicures while they chatted like old friends. It warmed her heart to see how quickly the Cullens had accepted Alice and Jasper into their family dynamic.
All too soon, Esme and Bella traded places with the others.
"So, Bella," Esme started as she eased her feet into the warm water, "what are you intentions with my son?"
"Wha-what do you mean?" She stuttered.
"I'm only teasing you, silly girl. Although, it's quite obvious that you and my son are taken with each other. It does my heart good to see him coming alive again."
"I'm sure that has everything to do with Jack coming back into his life, not me."
Esme eyed the younger woman carefully for a moment.
"You can't see what everyone else does, sweetheart. While having Jack back in his life is a blessing that Edward had prayed for, you're the blessing that his mother prayed for before we lost Jack at all."
"I don't understand?" She asked Esme, confused.
"It's no great secret that none of our family particularly like Victoria. I used to hope and wish on stars that my son would find the love of his life. We all knew that she was not it. We all turned a blind eye because if Edward was happy, we had no right to interfere."
"Huh," Bella mused, "Emmett said something similar to me this morning."
Esme raised an eyebrow.
"He wasn't rude to you, was he? He and I had a long chat the other day about his behavior during the barbecue. He promised that he'd behave."
Bella blushed slightly. He didn't deserve her protection, but she also didn't want to start any more drama, so she told a little white lie.
"We talked out our differences. Everything should be fine now."
Esme beamed at her.
"Good, good. I'm happy to hear that."
After a few minutes of silence, Alice and Rose strolled over and plopped into the chair on either side of Bella and Esme.
"So, Bells," Alice chimed in, "what's going on with you and Edward?"
Bella dropped her head back against the wall and groaned as Esme had a fit of giggles.
"What?" Alice asked. "What's so funny?"
"I-I just-I just-" Esme cut herself off gasping for breath between giggles. Bella pulled her back up and mock-glared at Esme.
"Esme had just got done asking me what my intentions for her son were," Bella responded dryly.
Alice's eyes widened and Rose immediately joined in with Esme. Alice shook her head and patted Bella on the back.
"Poor Bella," Alice sighed before breaking down in giggles with the others.
Bella rolled her eyes, but couldn't keep the smile off of her face.
"Are we finished? I'm starving," she said, trying to change the subject.
"Sure," Esme said, still slightly out of breath, "I could eat."
Bella stood up and headed back to the changing rooms, leaving the trio of hyenas behind.
Less than an hour later, the four of them were seated at a table in a nice restaurant that Esme had raved about. They had just placed their order when Bella noticed an older couple, around Esme's age, take notice of their group. The man and woman spoke quietly to each other, neither taking their eyes off of Bella's table. The woman nodded and the pair hesitantly made their way over.
"Good afternoon, Esme," the handsome gentleman spoke softly.
Bella noticed Rosalie's eyes widen and Esme's posture stiffen. Alice shot her a confused look and all Bella could do was shrug slightly.
Esme took a sip from her water glass before she turned and smiled vapidly at the couple standing off to her left side.
"Marcus, Diane," she said. The man's face fell slightly at Esme's cool tone.
"Esme, please," the woman said as she placed her hand on her husband's arm.
Esme's eyes flash angrily for a moment, before flicking her gaze to Bella.
"This is neither the time, nor the place for this discussion," she spoke with an eerily calmness.
Bella gasped and covered her mouth as Esme cut off the woman.
"Do not," Esme spat angrily. "Do not start this conversation right now. I guarantee it will end badly."
The man's gaze had fallen on Bella when she gasped and he continued to eye her curiously, as if he knew her from somewhere. Her eyes met his sea blue ones and she couldn't help but fall into their warmth. She wondered briefly if this handsome, kind-looking man could have spawned the devil in red-headed flesh.
He smiled kindly at her before looking back down at Esme, who was now looking back and forth between Marcus and Bella. He placed his hand on the small of his wife's back.
"We're sorry for interrupting your meal, ladies. Esme, we've been trying to say our piece for five years. I sincerely hope that you'll hear us out at some point." He tipped his head. "Have a good day, ladies."
He shot one last look at Bella before smiling to himself and leading his wife away.
Bella's brows pulled together in thought as she tried to understand what had just happened.
"Bella?" Esme called her quietly. Her gaze flickered over to the older woman's concerned face.
"Have you met Marcus before?"
"No," Bella shook her head, "I've never seen either of them before. I don't know what that was about."
"I'm sure you realized quickly, but those were Victoria's parents. Well, Diane doesn't really deserve that. Marcus is Victoria's father. Di is his second wife. She and I were college room mates and best friends. Until Victoria hooked her claws into Edward. Things became strained with them after that. We haven't actually talked civilly since Jack went missing."
"Is Victoria's mother still in Phoenix?" Bella asked. Esme nodded sadly.
"Yes, Millicent moved there after she divorced Marcus and took half of his money and seven year old daughter. Victoria came running back to daddy when she was sixteen because Millie had blown through most of her savings."
Esme ran her hand across her lips as she thought, before she dropped her hands in her lap and smiled.
"Let's not worry about that now, shall we? We'll just enjoy our lunch and then talk with our other halves when we get home, okay?"
Bella didn't fail to notice Esme's sly wink and pointed glance, alluding that Edward was hers. She inwardly sighed and wished that was actually a possibility.
When they arrived back at the house, the guys were already there. Upon entering the foyer, they heard a combination of laughing and cursing mixed with groans. The sight before them made Bella's heart stop. Edward was laying on the couch holding a large ice bag on his head, that obscured half of his face. The cursing and groaning were coming from him, while Carlisle and Emmett were doing the laughing.
Jasper and Jack were seated on the smaller couch, playing a video game. Bella quickly rushed over to Edward's side and knelt next to him. She reached out gently moved some of his hair off his brow. He immediately quieted and opened the eye that was visible. He tried to smile, but it looked painful. She gave him a soft look.
"What happened?" She asked quietly.
He moved the bag away and she saw a nasty purple bruise on his upper cheek and left eye. There was also a little cut on his lower lip.
"I had a date with the ground," he said, grimacing. Emmett slapped his leg and started laughing again. Bella swung her gaze at him and shot him a death glare, which immediately silenced him.
"Damn," Carlisle whispered, "she's good."
"Yeah, Mom can be scary when she wants to be," Jack piped in, not removing his eyes from the screen.
"Hush, you," she laughed lightly. "Jack, what happened to your father?"
"He was trying to do a kick flip and face planted."
Bella looked down at Edward, who looked completely mortified. Her heart melted, and she leaned down to kiss his forehead.
"Are you okay?" She asked.
"Besides my destroyed ego? A few bruises. I'll heal."
His eyes locked with hers and she felt heat travel her neck to her chest.
"Ahem," someone cleared their throats. Bella and Edward looked up to find everyone besides Jack and Jasper staring at them.
"What?" Edward asked.
Esme caught Bella's gaze and mouthed the words, 'I told you so.'
Bella rolled her eyes and looked away quickly. Edward moved over and patted for her to sit next to him. She carefully sat next to him while the others sat near their husbands. She looked down at him and sighed.
"We ran into some people at lunch today that upset your mom," she said quietly.
Edward quickly looked over to Esme. "What happened? Who was it?"
Esme smiled sadly. "Marcus and Diane."
Edward sat up and winced. "Are you serious? What the hell did they want? Shit, did they ask about Jack?"
Bella's phone began to rang with an unknown number, so she excused herself and walked out to the patio to take the call.
"Hello, Ms. Swan?" a deep, yet musical voice asked.
"Yes, this is she. Can I help you?"
"I sincerely hope so. We met earlier today. My name is Marcus Preston, and I have a proposition for you."