On a side note, we're going on a trip to Hershey, PA, for their Hershey Park in the Dark Halloween fun tomorrow for my birthday. Maybe we'll find something to add into out Halloween Outtake, which should be posting on the 31st, if all goes well. =)
"What are you doing here?" Bella asked Tanya as they settled on one of the couches.
Tanya shook her head and glared playfully at her friend.
"Well, if you would actually pay attention to your email, you would have read that I was coming to have your back, Chica. After I tore Lauren Mallory a new one and fired her ass for giving out your information, I had a few choice words for the Bossman. Let's just say that he agreed quickly with my indefinite stay in Chicago. I'm going to help run all of the publicity for this Gala thing that you've gotten yourself into."
"Oh, that would be wonderful," Esme interjected, sitting down across from the girls. "I've been racking my brain trying to figure some things out, so having an extra pair of hands will definitely help."
Tanya nodded thoughtfully. "What date do you guys have in mind?"
Bella and Esme looked at each before Bella turned to Tanya and shrugged.
"We're meeting with Marcus Preston and his wife on Tuesday to go over some details."
Tanya nodded again. "Why do I hear a 'but' in your voice?"
"We're planning on telling him about Jack as well."
"Hmmmm," she replied, tapping a finger on her lips in thought. "I'm glad I got out here before then. No offense, to you, Mrs. Cullen, but I'd rather not have you walking into something like that unprepared, Bella."
Esme smiled and shook her head. "No worries, dear. I've heard wonderful things about your, um, tenacity."
Tanya grinned widely. "Ah, my reputation precedes me. I feel honored."
She knocked Bella on the shoulder with one of her own.
Esme sighed and rubbed her hands together.
"It was wonderful meeting you, Tanya, but I'm heading to bed. There's a guest room at the end of the hall on the second floor and you are more than welcome to use it. I'm sure Bella wouldn't mind showing you the way, would you dear?"
Bella shook her head and smiled. "Not at all, Esme. Sleep well."
"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen. I might just take you up on that offer tonight, since B and I have some catching up to do. Goodnight."
"Goodnight to you girls as well. Oh, and please call me Esme, Tanya."
"Sure, I'll try and remember that," she laughed.
After Esme had disappeared up the stairs, Tanya turned on Bella with a mischievous glint in her eyes.
"Okay, so now that we're alone, tell me all about the walking God among men!"
Bella blushed furiously and bit her lip.
"Just so you know, I'm right behind you."
Both girls spun around to see Edward standing behind them with a small smirk on his face. Tanya flipped her hair over her shoulder and leveled a disinterested stare at him.
"I was talking about your father, dude."
Edward's eyes widened and his mouth opened, before closing again in surprise.
"Um, okay. Eww." Edward shuddered before smiling at Bella. "Do you think that I could speak with you for a moment?"
She nodded and walked with him to the bottom of the stairs. "What's up?"
"I just wanted to say goodnight and tell you that I wanted to kiss you very badly, but I wasn't sure how you'd react in front of anyone."
He gave her a bashful smile and her heart melted. Taking a step closer, Bella placed her hands on his chest and leaned up on her toes to place a small kiss on his lips. He smiled and gently moved his lips in time with hers. When the kiss ended, he leaned his forehead against hers and took a deep breath in through his nose.
"Goodnight, Bella," he whispered.
"Goodnight, Edward," she responded just as quietly.
He pressed his lips to her forehead and squeezed her hands before making his way upstairs. Bella stood frozen to the spot until she felt Tanya sidle up to her. She turned her head and looked at her friend, who was smiling softly.
"You really like him, don't you?" she asked quietly. Bella responded with a nod.
"Good. He seems like a nice guy and you deserve that, but if he hurts you, there won't be enough left of him for the dogs to find."
Bella nodded solemnly, knowing that Tanya was not kidding one bit.
Tanya took Bella by the arm and pulled her slightly to the stairs. "Come on, let's go talk about boys in privacy. All I need now is for the good doctor to walk in on me telling you about how I want to hump his leg."
July 6, 2010
Tuesday morning found Bella bouncing her leg nervously, while waiting for Marcus's secretary to show them into his office. Edward reached out and placed his hand on her knee, automatically calming and stilling her.
She shot him a thankful smile and he leaned over to kiss her on the cheek.
"Calm down, beautiful. Everything will be fine."
Bella nodded jerkily and caught Esme's happy grin out of the corner of her eye. She had been all too happy with the little bits of affection that her son and Bella had been exchanging more frequently over the past few days. Carlisle had wanted to be there with them today, but the hospital had been short staffed, so he offered to drop Jack off at Em and Rosalie's house beforehand. No one wanted Jack present for this meeting, since they were unsure of the outcome.
Esme, who was seated next to Tanya, leaned forward to whisper to the couple.
"So, I think the best plan of action is for me to speak with Diane privately. We have a few things to hash out, and I think confiding in her about Jack beforehand will give us the advantage of possibly having her on our side."
Tanya nodded. "Good call. I have a few things that I'd like to talk to Mr. Preston myself about as well, so we'll get those settled and out of the way first."
The intercom on the secretary's desk buzzed. "Heidi, could you please see our guests into my office now?"
"Yes, sir, Mr. Preston."
The tall, thin brunette smiled kindly and motioned for the group to follow her. "This way, please."
"Why do I get the feeling that we're the lure dangling on a fishing pole?" Tanya commented quietly to Bella. She leaned towards her friend and whispered back.
"Because that's exactly what we are. We're the lure for Marcus to reel in Esme. He's definitely in for a surprise today."
Heidi opened a door and ushered them into a large office. Marcus sat regally behind a large ornate desk, while his wife and daughter sat across from him. All three stood to greet their guests. Irina's eyes lit up when she saw Edward, but then narrowed slightly when she noticed the grip he had on Bella's hand.
"Esme, Edward, it's good to see you again. As well as you, Miss Swan," Marcus spoke with friendliness. He turned to Tanya and gave her a confused smile. "I'm afraid that we haven't met, Miss ...?"
Tanya smirked and placed her briefcase on a chair before holding out her hand to shake. "Denali. Tanya Denali. I'm Miss Swan's representative from HarperCollins."
Marcus blinked and gave her a slight nod. Esme stepped forward and took Diane by the hand, which caused a look of shock to cross her face.
"Marcus, Diane, do you think that Di and I could have a few moments alone?"
Marcus smiled brilliantly and nodded. Diane quickly led Esme out of the room and closed the door behind them.
"Well, then," Tanya started, "while we're waiting for them, I have a few things that I'd like to discuss with you, sir. If you don't mind?"
Marcus nodded once again and motioned to the five chairs that were arranged in front of the desk. Tanya took the middle seat and Bella sat next to her on the right. When Edward sat down on Bella's other side, Irina let out a little huff and pulled a chair over to sit next to him. Tanya turned to Bella and raised an eyebrow, but all Bella could do was shrug. She briefly wondered if the younger girl had a crush on him.
Edward caught her eye and smiled apologetically and Bella squeezed his hand in understanding. She saw Marcus give their clasped hands a pointed look before meeting her eyes with a questioning gaze.
Tanya cleared her throat and crossed her legs, staring down Marcus Preston.
"Mr. Preston, I must admit that on the one hand, I am in awe of your persistence in obtaining Bella's assistance. On the other, as her friend, I am furious that you attempted to manipulate not only her, but my company as well. I would highly suggest that you tread lightly from here on out. I am not a person who should be trifled with."
Marcus sat back and raised an eyebrow. He turned to Bella and smiled slightly.
"You are a fiercely protected woman, Miss Swan. Not only by Ms. Denali here, but the Cullens as well. Such an enigma."
After a moment, he sighed. "I do apologize for the breach of protocol in obtaining your personal information, but I can't regret it. Not when Esme is in the next room talking with my wife."
Tanya folded her arms and leaned back in the chair. "The outcome of today's events remains to be seen, Mr. Preston. I wouldn't put all of my eggs in one basket."
Bella swallowed nervously and glanced to the right and saw Irina holding onto Edward's arm as she talked excitedly about her current university classes. Annoyance welled up in her chest, but she pushed it down. There was no way she was going to let herself be jealous of a child; a child that was only four years younger than herself. She swallowed the acid that slowly began creeping up her throat. She let go of his hand and ran her fingers through her hair. She felt him look at her in concern, but she couldn't bring herself to look at him right now. Not until she wrangled in her emotions.
Thankfully, she was saved by the door opening. All eyes turned to watch both Esme and Diane walk in, holding hands and red-eyed. Bella met Diane's gaze and the older woman gave her an encouraging smile and nod. Bella sighed a bit and felt less anxious. The smile on Marcus' face when he looked at Esme and his wife made her feel like she had done the right thing by encouraging the women to bury the hatchet. The look he sported was nothing more than plain love and adoration.
Bella coughed slightly and waited until Marcus met her eyes.
"Before we get into any of the Gala planning, there is one important matter of business that we need to take care of first."
Marcus waved his hand and gestured for her to continue. Keeping her voice steady, she continued.
"As I'm sure you already know, The Lost Treasures Foundation is a charity that I set up to help lost and missing children, as well as their families. My son is one of those children, and I wanted to do whatever I could for others like him. We never gave up our search for his family, and we recently discovered them. It's no coincidence that we're Chicago right now."
She watched as understanding slowly started to dawn on him and an array of emotions flickered across his face.
"The Jack Attack series that I write is modeled after him."
Marcus covered his mouth with his hand and his eyes welled up with tears. Diane stood up and walked over to place her arms around her husband, comfortingly. Irina looked back and forth between her parents and Bella, utter confusion on her face.
"Wait, I'm not following."
Marcus wiped his eyes and took a deep breath.
"Are you trying to tell me that your adopted son is my grandson?" he asked in an eerily calm tone. Bella nodded curtly.
"Why didn't you tell me sooner? Was this some sort of punishment?" he glanced at Esme, who shook her head sadly.
"I'm sorry, Marcus," Bella responded. "I honestly didn't know how to tell you or how you would react."
His eyes blazed angrily at her and slammed his fist on the desk.
"What do you mean, you didn't know how to tell me? You say, 'Marcus, your grandson is alive and in my care,' that's what you say, Isabella."
Edward jumped to his feet and stood directly in front of him.
"Don't," he growled. "Don't you dare take any of this out on her. You don't know a quarter of the story. If she had not been there for Jack, he'd probably be dead or worse. It was our decision to not tell you right away, Marcus, not hers. If this is how you're going to react, then we'll go and leave it as it is. You made your bed and alienated our family when you chose to enable Victoria's habits. You can't blame us for putting Jack's safety first."
Marcus swallowed thickly and trained his stare at the desk top.
"Marcus, Esme gave me the abridged version in the other room," Diane spoke quietly to her husband. "You should really hear what they have to say. Especially if you want to be a part of that little boy's life."
He looked up at Bella with such sad eyes and she knew instantly that he wouldn't be causing any issues for their family.
"Please?" His voice cracked as he tried to speak. "Please, may I see him?"
Bella blinked away tears and nodded.
Irina huffed again, annoyed at being ignored and in the dark.
"You have Jack?" she asked, turning on Bella with a hateful look. "Did you kidnap him or something?"
Edward went to open his mouth, but Bella silenced him with a hand on his arm.
"No, I found him alone and starving in alley when your sister abandoned him."
Irina's eyes widened and she gasped. "I knew it," she whispered, shaking her head back and forth. She turned on her father and glared at him. "I told you. I told you it was her fault, but you didn't want to hear it. There was no way that he could just magically disappear the way she said he did. You protected her at the cost of your own grandson!"
She stood up and grabbed Edward's hand. "Please, Eddie! I wanna see him."
Edward sighed and looked down at Bella, holding her gaze for a minute.
'Don't do it,' she thought to herself.
He looked back Irina and smiled sadly.
"It's not just up to me, Rini. Bella is his mother, she has a say, too."
Internally, Bella let out a sigh of relief that he wouldn't go over her head for Irina.
"So, wait a minute," the younger woman interjected. "Jack's my nephew, but I have to go through you to talk to him? That's bullshit."
"Irina," Diane said in a warning tone.
"No, don't 'Irina' me, Mom! How can you be fine with her keeping Jack from us? You're just as bad as Victoria," she snarled at Bella.
Bella steeled herself and stood slowly, moving face to face with Irina.
"I admire your passion, but I'm not the person who's to blame here for anything other than loving my son and wanting him protected. I won't apologize for either of those things."
Irina's lower lip quivered and she burst into tears. She dropped to her knees and sobbed into her hands. Diane left Marcus' side and went to her daughter. Bella blinked away tears and looked away from the scene. As much as she knew that she was in the right, she couldn't help feeling bad for the situation that the Prestons found themselves in.
Bella felt a tug on her hand and she looked over at Edward, who gave her a sad smile, before pulling her into his arms. She laid her head on his chest and let out a few tears of her own. He gently tugged her over so they could take the seats to Tanya's left this time, allowing Esme to sit with Diane and Irina, who was now drying her tears. She looked up at Bella and gave her the most pitifully sad smile she had ever seen.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Swan. I've hated my sister for years, and I've missed Jack so much." She smiled wistfully for a moment. "I used to babysit him a lot when he was a baby. I used to get so mad at Victoria when she acted like he wasn't even there sometimes. I mean, I know that her own mother was kind of crappy, but most mothers want to do better for their kids, right?"
Bella nodded sadly, knowing that was one of the driving forces in her relationship with Jack. She was determined to be better than Renee.
"But Vic didn't care. She only cared about herself and her next score."
Diane gasped and looked at her daughter sharply. Irina laughed humorlessly.
"What? You didn't think I knew? All of the times Daddy paid someone off that she owed money to or paid someone off when she was picked up by the cops?"
Marcus closed his eyes and hung his head in shame, but Irina continued.
"What do you think made me try so hard to be better than her? Not that it really took much effort."
Diane looked at her daughter in sympathy. "I'm so sorry sweetie."
"I used to hear you two arguing over her all of the time, especially during the divorce. I didn't really care what happened to Vic, but I wanted Eddie to stay." She looked over at him adoringly and this time Bella could really see it for the pure and innocent emotion that it was. "You were my big brother. I may have disliked Victoria, but it was because of her that I got you and Jack. When Jack was gone, everything started to fall apart. And then when you two split up, I lost you, too. And my parents, too, pretty much. They were arguing all of the time and worried about what was going on with her. I didn't exist anymore. When I got accepted to Harvard, I jumped at the chance to leave her and get out from under her shadow."
After a few quiet moments of letting everyone adjust to the emotional overload, Marcus broke the silence.
"When do you think we could see him?"
Bella looked down at her hands for a moment before quietly replying. "What do you think about today? He knows where we are and why we're here. He was actually pretty anxious about how everything would turn out today."
His face lit up and he gave her a hopeful smile. "Please? I promise that we will be on our best behaviors."
She turned to Edward and she didn't even have to open her mouth before he nodded at her and pulled out his phone to text Emmett.
"So," Tanya spoke up, lightening the mood, "while we're waiting for the rugrat, why don't we work on some Gala planning?"
Little under an hour later, a date of July 30th was chosen for the gala, as well as a black and white theme along with a handful of other details. Tanya looked down at her planner and hummed thoughtfully.
"This should work really well. It's a week before we have to leave on your book tour, Bella, so it's perfect."
Edward looked at Bella quickly. "Book tour?" he asked in confusion. She blinked and nodded.
"Yeah, I have a two week tour that I was previously committed to doing before Jack and I found out about all of you. It must have slipped my mind in all of the recent excitement."
He gave her an incredulous look. "Yeah, it must have," he replied somewhat sarcastically. She was just about respond when they heard Heidi's voice calling down the hall.
"Hey! Wait a minute, you just can't barge in there!"
"Look, it's cool, lady. My mom and dad are in there."
Marcus chuckled and shook his head. "Well, he still has your impatience, Edward."
Edward bit his cheek to keep from grinning. There was a knock on the the door and Jack poked his head in. As soon as he laid eyes on Bella, he smiled and walked into the room, shutting the door behind him. He stood stock still when noticed that everyone was looking at him. His eyes darted around the people in the room.
"Uh, can you guys stop the staring? It's creepy. I'm not a sideshow."
Bella laughed and stood up, holding her hand out to him. Jack made his way swiftly to her side and placed his hand in hers.
"Jack, I'd like you to meet Marcus and Diane Preston, your other grandparents and your Aunt Irina."
Jack smiled shyly at them. "Hi."
Marcus nodded, overcome with emotion and pulled the boy into a hug. Unsure of what to do, Jack patted him on the back awkwardly and Bella had to stifle a giggle. Diane stood off to the side, holding onto Esme. When Marcus pulled back, Diane enveloped Jack into a hug. This one seemed more comfortable for him and he hugged her back.
When Irina's turn came, she seemed frozen, unsure of what to do. Jack cocked his head to the side, much like he had when he recognized Emmett and Bella watched the scene in fascination.
"Is your name Rainy?"
Her eyes widened comically and she grinned. "My name is Irina, but you used to call me Rainy."
He nodded and smiled at her before walking over to hug her. She closed her eyes and squeezed him tightly.
"I missed you, squirt."
Jack smiled and nodded, before making his way back to his mother's side.
Marcus wiped his eyes once again and smiled.
"What do you guys say to going to get something to eat? My treat."
Tanya stood up and stretched. "I've never been one to turn down a free meal, just ask Bella."
Bella laughed and shook her head. "You've got that right. Once a week, if Tahn is in town, she'll show up on our doorstep waiting to be fed, like a stray cat."
Tanya winked and pretended to swipe her claws at Bella, before hooking one arm through Bella's and the other through Jack's.
"Come on now, let's go some place fairly quiet so you guys can continue to catch up."
Bella felt a tug on her arm. Tanya turned her head to face Edward.
"Yes, dear?" she asked. Edward laughed and removed Bella from her grasp.
"I'll keep a hold of this one, but I expect the boy child back in one piece later, okay?"
Tanya smirked. "Possessive, eh? Then I guess I shouldn't tell you that I slept in her bed last night?"
Edward stopped in his tracks as Tanya sauntered away with Jack and the rest of their group following. He turned to Bella and gave her a questioning glance.
Bella look up at him innocently. "What? Tahn likes to snuggle."
She nudged his shoulder and he shook his head, laughing heartily, as they moved to catch up with their group.