AN: This chapter is a little shorter than normal, but look at it this way, you're not only getting it early, but Friday will have another regular chapter. Thanks to Stratan who Beta'd this so quickly!
Here is where we gain a little bit in regards to the story's M rating. There is a Lime in the early part of this chapter. Read the AN at the end of the chapter for more info on the future occurrence of anything else of the citrus variety. =)
Bella stretched like a cat as she woke up and curled around her pillow, sighing. She shifted deeper into the comfortable bed, feeling the softness of the sheets brush against her bare legs. When that thought registered with her fully, she sat up quickly and flung the sheets from her body. She glanced down with wide eyes and noticed that she was clad only in her purple shirt and dark pink boy shorts. Her mind started working at a furious speed trying to remember getting into bed, but the last thing she recalled was the first thirty minutes of The Proposal with Edward.
After their phenomenal kiss, Edward had ordered pizza, and they continued to chat over wine until their dinner came. After everything was cleaned up, they curled up together on the couch to watch the movie. She ran her fingers through her hair trying desperately to recall how she had gotten in bed last night. Her only conclusion was that Edward had carried her to bed and undressed her to make her comfortable. Her cheeks reddened at the thought of him seeing her so exposed. She shook her head and hopped out of bed to pick out an outfit for the day.
In the bathroom, she turned on the shower and stripped off her clothes to step under the hot spray. She sighed and let the heat relax the tense muscles in her back. She lathered and rinsed her hair with shampoo and conditioner, trying to unravel the knots that had accumulated in her sleep.
As she soaped up her body, she couldn't help but let her thoughts wander back to that awesome kiss from last night. She had neverbefore felt desire like what he inspired in her; it wasan all-consuming and completely new experience. Remembering the electric feeling of his hands on her body as they twirled around the living room, she slowly ran her hands over her wet skin. She ran one hand down her stomach while the other cupped and gently squeezed one of her breasts. Her hand slipped across her mound and between her wet lips as she recalled his blazing eyes and the way his lips felt against hers. She felt the slow, yet steady burn in her abdomen, much like the tightening of a coil. It continued to wind, shooting her desire through the roof. Not long afterwards, she found herself climaxing and calling out his name softly.
She placed one hand against the shower wall to steady herself and calm her unsteady breaths. Once she was back in control of her body, she quickly finished her shower and got dressed. She spared a glance at her laptop, remembering that she had yet to read Tanya's email. Just as she was about to reach for it, her stomach growled loudly and she opted to get some breakfast in her first.
Edward was sitting at the kitchen island with a cup of coffee reading a newspaper when she entered the room. Thoughts of what she had done just shortly before raced through her head and her cheeks blazed. He looked up and his eyes lit up when he saw her.
"Good morning, Bella." He grinned. "Did you rest well?"
She smiled and bit her lip in embarrassment. "Yes, I slept well. Yourself?"
"One of the best nights ever."
She nodded shyly and pulled down a bowl for cereal. She sat next to him and started to eat some Lucky Charms. After a few minutes of silence, she felt his eyes on her. She raised her eyes and shot him a questioning look.
"What?" she asked. He shook his head and looked away, smiling.
She finished her breakfast and washed the bowl out in the sink. Before her nerves got the better of her, Bella turned to face Edward and rested her hip against the counter.
He looked up and smiled gently at her. "Yeah?"
"Last night, did you carry me upstairs?"
He nodded. "Yes, I didn't want to wake you."
She swallowed nervously and shifted her weight from one foot to the other, looking downward.
"Did you, uh, undress me as well?" She felt her face heat up in embarrassment. She chanced a glance at his face. His eyes were widened in surprise and he blinked at her.
"Um, no, I didn't. You did that all on your own."
"Huh? I- I don't recall that," she responded warily, to which he smiled wickedly.
"Well, after I set you down on the bed, you started to slide off your skirt, getting comfortable I presumed. I closed my eyes and backed out of the room."
She closed her eyes and groaned in mortification. She heard his chair scrape against the floor and she assumed that he was escaping. She was taken by surprise when she felt his arms brush hers on either side of her body, as he leaned against the counter behind her, effectively creating a cage. She opened her eyes and was met with his mirth-filled ones.
"Or did I?" he asked softly before dipping his head and kissing her slowly. Her blood began to sing and rush through her veins. Her hands ran their way up his chest through no conscious thought of her own.
The slamming of the front door and voice of their son pulled them apart.
"Mom! Dad! We're home!"
Edward's eyes danced with happiness as he deftly stepped away from her. "I assume that we should talk about thisbetween the two of us," he motioned between their bodies, "before we talkabout it with him?"
Bella nodded, still in a daze.
"Okay," he said quietly. He sat back down in his previous seat right before Jack came barreling into the kitchen.
"There you are, Ma!"
The boy walked over and wrapped his arms around her waist.
"Oh, Jack, I missed you, kiddo," she murmured against his hair.
"Me, too, Mom."
Jack pulled away and went to give Edward a hug as Esme and Carlisle stepped into the kitchen. Carlisle winked at her while Esme looked excited. She sat down in the chair that Bella had previously vacated and tapped her fingers on the marble.
"So? How did the date go?" she asked excitedly. Her husband stepped up behind her and rubbed her shoulders.
"Es, let's not get ahead of ourselves, shall we?" he asked with laughter in his voice. Edward rolled his eyes playfully at his mother before smiling at Bella.
"It was very nice, Mom. The music was great and the company was stunning. We learned a good deal more about each other," he responded, keeping his eyes locked with Bella's the entire time.
"Cool," Jack piped in. "Did you have fun, Mom?"
She glanced at her son and nodded. "Yeah, I did. It was a lot of fun."
Esme looked between Edward and Bella, beaming.
"Awesome. I'm glad you had fun. You deserve it," Jack said as he leaned back on the counter next to Bella. She put her arm around his shoulder and laughed.
"No problem. Did you know that my Great Gran is nuts? Like, really crazy?"
Bella's eyes widened. "Jack! That's rude!"
Her eyes shot towards Esme and was surprised to see the older woman shaking with laughter.
"No, Bella, it's okay. My mom is certifiable. In a good way, of course."
Bella shot the older woman a confused look and Esme only shook her head in response.
"Seriously, Ma, she was so funny. I've never met an old person like her before. Most old people are cranky, but she was totally cool."
Bella hung her head in embarrassment. "Jack, stop calling people old. It's not very nice."
He cocked his head and gave her a quizzical look. "But, she's old. Why can't I call her old?"
Edward, taking pity on poor Bella, caught Jack's eye and motioned towards the door.
"Come on, Jack. Let's take a walk and I'll try to explain, okay?"
Jack shrugged and followed Edward out of the room. Carlisle smiled and leaned forward to kiss Esme on the forehead.
"I'll be in the study if you need me, wife. See you later, Bella," he said as he left the room.
Esme eyed Bella for a moment before sighing and standing up. She opened a cabinet and pulled out a coffee mug.
"I think I'm going to need this."
A few minutes later, the two women were seated side by side, deep in conversation.
"I've set up a meeting with Marcus and Diane for Tuesday," Esme said quietly. Bella's eyes widened, surprised that Esme had not only set up a meeting with the Prestons, but at how quickly it would be occurring.
"So soon?" Bella asked. Esme nodded.
"We need to work things out for the Gala, right? The sooner the better. It's up to you and Edward, but I think you were right about telling them about Jack. I can only imagine the scene he'd cause if he found out that we were intentionally deceiving him. As much as I don't like the idea about Marcus being in Jack's life, I realize now that it would be sinking to Victoria's level if we acted dishonestly."
Bella placed her hand on the older woman's shoulder and squeezed it gently.
"For what it's worth, it's the right thing to do."
Esme smiled sadly, before jumping slightly when the front door slammed open once again.
"MOM! We're here!" Emmett's loud voice carried through the house.
Bella let out a chuckle. "What is it with these Cullen boys and announcing their arrival?"
Esme laughed and shook her head.
"We're in the kitchen, Em!" she called out in response. A moment later, Rosalie walked into the kitchen. She smiled warmly at Bella and Esme.
"Good morning, ladies. Emmett is in the living room getting lectured by his father."
Esme laughed and jumped up. "This I've got to see."
Bella and Rosalie followed her into the living room to see Edward and Jack sitting on the couch, watching in amusement as Carlisle scolded Emmett.
Emmett looked over and smiled widely at Bella, rushing over to give her a hug. The gesture surprised her until she heard Carlisle speak up.
"Don't think that running to Bella will get you out of this, Emmett."
Em winked at Bella before turning to face his father again.
"I know, Dad. I'm sorry for barging in here like a madman. I promise to act my age in the future."
Carlisle sighed and shook his head, but everyone could see him fighting a smile.
Jack noticed his mother and jumped up to talk to her.
"Hey, Mom? PopPop was just telling Dad that he'd like us to come with them to a Fourth of July picnic that they're going to. Can we? Please?"
He batted his eyes and pouted out his bottom lip at her, but she only rolled her eyes and laughed.
"The Puss-in-Boots look doesn't work on me, kiddo."
Bella turned towards Carlisle. "What's this about a picnic?"
The older man smiled warmly. "The hospital where I work holds a Fourth of July picnic every year. Edward usually stays home, but we'd love it if all of you could come with us this year."
Her eyes cut towards Edward, who was looking at her expectantly.
"Do you want to go?" she asked.
He rolled his eyes. "No, Bella, I thought maybe I'd go with Rosalie and leave Emmett with you."
"Actually, Edward," Rose responded, her lips twitching while she tried not to smile, "I'd rather go with Bella and leave you with Emmett."
"Aww, c'mon, babe! You can't leave me with the stiff," Emmett whined.
"Well, I'm sure Bella doesn't go barging into her mother's house acting like a savage," she teased her husband.
Bella stiffened and looked down at the floor reflexively. She felt a soft touch on her hand and looked over to see Jack smiling at her in comfort.
"Bella?" Rose asked quietly. Bella turned to see her watching her hesitantly.
"Is everything okay?"
Bella nodded. "Yeah, sorry. Um, my mom and I don't exactly have that kind of relationship."
Rosalie shot her a confused look. "What do you mean?"
"She's mean," Jack said quietly. Everyone turned towards the boy, whose eyes were hard and cold. "Renee left her like she did me. At least Renee left Mom with her dad, not all alone."
Bella felt tears sting her eyes and she knelt down in front of her son.
"Hey," she whispered to him, "are you okay?"
Jack blinked and his expression warmed up. "Sorry, Mom."
"Don't be sorry, kiddo. I just want to know if you're okay."
He nodded and smiled shakily. "Yeah, I'm cool."
Emmett clapped his hands together jubilantly, trying to lighten the mood.
"So, who's ready for food and fireworks? I know I am!"
Edward and Esme groaned, while Carlisle sighed.
"Let me go grab my medical bag," he responded, before heading upstairs.
"Hey!" Emmett protested. "I'm not that bad."
Esme put her hands on her hips and arched an eyebrow.
"Really?" she asked. "What about that time when your father had to stitch part of your pinky back on?"
Jack's eyes widened and he looked up at his uncle in awe.
Emmett's cheeks pinkened. "That was only once!"
Esme shook her head. "Once is more than enough, dear. We're not even counting the other times you've had me tearing my hair out."
Edward put his head in his hands, shaking in silent laughter. Bella glanced around the room and noticed that the others were watching him with a kind of awe. It was a startling reminder that he had been only surviving these past few years, not living.
Rose hooked her arm through Bella's. "Come on, let's go get you ready."
Bella laughed and followed Rose's lead. "Sure, why not?"
Bella sat a long picnic table, sandwiched between Carlisle and Esme as she watched Edward, Emmett and Jack toss around a football with a few other men and their children. Her mind worked in overtime and every 'what-if' she could think of swirled around in her head. She knew without a doubt that she was falling in love with Edward. There was a very good possibility that he was experiencing the same thing.
What if he wasn't?
What if his affections were just because he's been lonely for so long?
What if his feelings were only because of the fact that she took care of his son?
What if they weren't?
What would happen at the end of the summer?
What would happen if they moved to Chicago?
What if they stayed in Washington?
Would the Cullens come for regular visits?
Or would they want Jack to live with them?
She honestly felt that they would never pull her apart from Jack, but how would they balance everything out?
Now that she had fallen in adoration with the Cullen clan, she couldn't imagine leaving them. But on the same token, she couldn't imagine leaving her own family and friends behind. The questions whirled around like a tornado, forcing her to blink back tears at their sudden force. She felt a nudge and turned to Esme, who was smiling at her.
"Hey, no frowning," she half-whispered. "Try to enjoy the day, sweetie."
Bella shook her head and smiled sadly. "I'm sorry, Esme. Too many thoughts running around in my head. I don't know what I'm doing."
Esme laughed lightly. "Oh, sweetheart! None of us know what we're doing. Life's a dance that we learn as we go. Everything will work out for the best, you'll see."
"How can you be so sure, Esme? I can't see how this will end happily."
Bella sniffed and looked down at her plate.
"How can I not, Bella? Fate stepped in and brought you to love and keep Jack safe. Fate brought you and Jack back to us. I can't help but be hopeful for the future, especially knowing that my grandson is alive and safe and loved."
Bella blinked away the last of her tears and nodded, determined to enjoy the rest of the day.
She looked up just in time to see a small red-headed girl throw herself into Edward's arms. She gasped and her heart started to pound.
"Esme!" she whisper-yelled. Esme looked over at Bella in surprise.
Bella nodded in the hugging couple's direction. "Who is she?"
Esme turned her head and her eyes narrowed while pursing her lips. "Irina."
Bella's eyes widened and she searched for Jack. She found him standing a few feet away, with Emmett whispering in his ear. She watched as Jack nodded and started making his way over to her.
He looked confused as he sat down across from her.
"Uncle Em said to come over here and chill out while he tries to figure out what's going on. He said the chick was my aunt and he wasn't sure how Dad wanted to play this out."
Jack leaned back slightly and shook his head. "I really didn't understand half of what he said, though."
Bella couldn't help but crack a smile. Jack was too cute sometimes.
"He meant that he wasn't sure if your dad wanted Irina to know about you yet. We were planning on tell your other grandparents on Tuesday. So, if she finds out now, then she might tell Marcus and Diane, who would be very upset."
Jack nodded thoughtfully.
"I get it, but what if I don't like them? What if I meet them, and all I can see is Victoria?"
Bella raised an eyebrow. "Since when do you call her by her name?"
"I'm tired of saying 'her' all of the time, it gets confusing. She's not my mom, you are, so I can't call her that. So, I'm left with her name. Know what I mean?"
Bella gazed at her son, who was wise beyond his years, and sighed.
"Yeah, I know what you mean."
Carlisle crossed his arms on the table and leaned down on them.
"If you don't like them or if they scare you, all you have to do is tell one of us. I hope you give them at least a chance, though. They're your grandparents, too, and they love you very much."
Jack's eyes flashed angrily towards his grandfather. "Love me? Like their daughter did?"
The look of sympathy on Carlisle's face melted the boy's ire immediately.
"I'm sorry, PopPop. I promise I'll give them a chance and to let you guys know if I get upset."
Esme reached over to take jack's hand and squeeze it. She looked over his shoulder and smiled.
"It's alright, baby. Here comes your dad to let us know what's up."
Edward sat down next to his son, a smile still on his face. Esme arched a brow.
"I take it that everything went well?"
He nodded. "Yeah, Rini just wanted to say hello. I told her that she should come to the meeting on Tuesday with her parents, though."
Jack scrunched his face up and turned towards his father.
"I'm confused. Why do you like her, but not Victoria or my grandparents?"
Edward's eyes widened and he looked at his son in surprise.
"Well, the reason I dislike Vic should go without saying. She hurt you and lost you. That's unforgivable. Marcus and Diane are a different story. It's complicated, but Rini was just a kid herself when you disappeared. Even though your mom and I didn't work out, I've always thought of her like a little sister."
Jack swallowed visibly. "Please don't call her that."
"Don't call who what?" Edward asked.
"Victoria. Please don't call her my mother."
Edward shot a worried glance at Bella before nodding. "Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sure that's painful for you, son."
"Thanks," Jack replied quietly.
Later that night, everyone found themselves leaning back against the grass watching a magnificent fireworks display. Jack was nestled in between Bella and Edward, Ooh'ing and Ahh'ing excitedly. She felt something brush her shoulder and she looked over to find Edward gazing at her and his fingers playing with her hair. He smiled beautifully before looking back up at the sky, his hand still resting on her shoulder.
Her heart started to race and she closed her eyes, relishing in the feel of his touch. She wanted nothing more than to feel it in other places. Just the thought of his fingers replacing hers in the shower earlier had her blushing furiously. She was extremely thankful for the darkness surrounding them. Still, the thoughts were extremely welcomed.
Just about an hour later, the five of them pulled up in front of the house. Jack was out cold, so Edward lifted him easily into his arms while Bella, Esme and Carlisle made their way to the front door. The light from overhead on the porch illuminated a shadow, which moved from its sitting position on one of the swings. Bella gasped in surprised when the blonde raised a perfectly shaped brow over her cool, violet eyes.
"Isn't this cozy?" she asked snarkily, before quirking her lips up into a smile.
"You should really try to make a better effort at reading your emails, Bella. Have I taught you nothing?" Tanya laughed.
Bella's face broke out into a grin and she ran into Tanya's arms for a tight hug.
"I missed you, B. Seriously, we need to get you more in tune with technology."
Bella pulled back and laughed, happy to see her friend. She felt more at ease instantly in regards to the meeting with the Prestons now. She knew without a doubt that she could count on Tanya to have hers and Jack's best interest at heart.
"Oh, how rude," Bella muttered. "I'm sorry, let me introduce you. Esme and Carlisle, this is Tanya Denali. Tahn, this is Esme and Carlisle Cullen."
Tanya smiled kindly and held her hand out to shake theirs.
"It's a pleasure, Mr. and Mrs. Cullen. During our few and far between conversations lately, B has told me how wonderful you all are."
Bella rolled her eyes at the little dig, which caused Tanya to quirk an eyebrow in challenge, smirking slightly.
"What going on?" Edward asked as he carried Jack up the front porch stairs. He noticed Tanya and blinked several times.
"One of yours?" he asked, turning towards Bella. She nodded with an excited smile.
"What is it with you and people showing up randomly?" Edward smiled and shook his head in amusement.
2nd AN: See you guys on Friday! Chapter 22's Teasers will go up on the Blog on Wednesday night and reviews will still get their teasers. =)
Now, as for future occurrence of things with a citrusy nature, there will be intimate moments in this story as their relationship grows. However, anything graphic just won't gel with the natural flow of the story. If there happens to be a lemon or lime that I want to get into more detail with, I will post it in the Outtakes and not here. I feel that this a pretty good compromise.