A/N: Sorry. I got distracted by a little story called, 'The Twelve Days of Christmas.' But I'm back now.

The story starts changing a bit more here guys, because we're not talking about eighteenth century Regency, but rather twenty-first century America. I apologize in advance if any of the changes offend anyone, but for those familiar with P&P, Mr. Wickham getting Georgiana to fall in love with him and 'almost' elope with him wouldn't really be much nowadays, would it?

A&A Ch. 21/P&P Ch. 35


Bella awoke the next morning feeling sluggish and numb. Her mind had been plagued all through the night with replays of the previous evening's scene; the overly confident look on Edward's face when he told her he loved her, followed by his outraged indignation when she told him she felt the total opposite. All night she'd tossed and turned, wondering why she felt so miserable, why her heart felt so heavy when she'd simply been honest with him; when she'd gotten off of her chest all that had been building up for months.

Even as she prepared herself for her before class morning jog, her thoughts circled around his every word, his every phrase.

'All these accusations you've flung at me may have been forgotten if I'd stood here and instead flattered you with sweet words and confessions of how I never doubted how right we were for each other.'

Bella took off running, her pace too quick; her feet too rigid, trying to escape, but it was futile.

'All these accusations you've flung at me may have been forgotten if I'd stood here and instead flattered you with sweet words and confessions of how I never doubted how right we were for each other.'

No! It wasn't true! He was an arrogant, conceited fool, and she would've turned him down regardless of what he'd said to her!

She dropped her head and momentarily closed her eyes to the constant-

She'd only gotten as far as the corner of her block when someone yanked her arm and swung her around, and her body collided with a strong, unyielding chest.

Bella gasped sharply and looked up and into cool green eyes. Edward regarded her stonily; jaw set tight, chest heaving.

"Don't worry," he said coldly, "I don't plan to stalk or bother you." He raised his other hand and Bella saw it held an envelope. "I just need to ask one thing of you – that you please read this."

She took the letter instinctively.

"Good-bye, Bella." He held her gaze for one immeasurable moment, and then quickly walked away while she watched him. And with the casual push of a button on his car key he unlocked his doors and drove off without another glance her way.

Knowing that she'd never be able to finish her jog now, Bella sprinted back to her small student housing apartment, chest heaving and body cold and clammy, as if she'd gone for a marathon run rather than having barely made it around the corner. Hands shaking, she sat down and tore open the envelope that had her name written on it in perfectly formed script. Inside were a few sheets of paper, written front and back. With dread tickling her spine, Bella began reading:

Bella,

Let me set your mind at ease from the very beginning and assure you that this letter does not contain any repeat of the feelings that I expressed to you yesterday, which you found so offensive. I don't plan to upset you or to embarrass myself further by dwelling on things that can't be, things that for the sake of both of us can't be forgotten soon enough. I wouldn't be writing this or asking you to read it if it wasn't for the fact that every fiber of my being demands that it be written and read. Therefore I'll ask for your forgiveness in demanding your attention one final time. Your hostility towards me will likely make it difficult for you to grant such forgiveness, but I have to ask it of your sense of justice, which I know you possess.

There were two hefty crimes of which you accused me yesterday – though one is definitely worse than the other. The first was that regardless of what they may have felt themselves, I'd worked it so that Jasper would stay away from your sister. The other, that despite certain wishes, despite what is honorable and right, I'd left Mike penniless and out in the cold, that I'd purposely and inconsiderately abandoned someone who was once one of my best friends, who was once like a son to my own father. If true, then what I'd done to Jasper and Alice would pale in comparison. But if you don't mind, I'd like to attempt to absolve myself of some of the blame which you so readily lay at my feet. If during my explanation it becomes necessary to bring up those feelings which offended you so much yesterday, then I can only repeat that I'm sorry.

We hadn't been in Forks long before I realized that Jasper liked your sister. But it wasn't until the night of the party at Netherfield that I realized his feelings were much stronger than that. You must understand that I've seen Jasper in love before, but it was during that night, while you and I danced together, that Seth happened to mention that the entire neighborhood was already expecting Jasper and Alice to tie the knot. He spoke about it as if it was a foregone conclusion. That's when I started paying closer attention to Jasper's behavior. What I found was that Jasper did indeed seem to be more in love with Alice than I'd ever seen him be before. So I watched your sister.

Yes, Alice did seem as happy and friendly as ever, but she didn't look like a woman in love to me. And though she certainly laughed and enjoyed Jasper's company, I couldn't perceive anything beyond a summer's fling in her actions.

Bella, if you weren't wrong here, then I must've been. You know your sister much better than I do, so it's probably the latter. If so, and if by making such a mistake I hurt your sister, than I admit you have reason to be upset. But I have to insist that the way your sister acted all summer up to and including the night of the party made it seem as though she was happy enough to be in Jasper's company, but her heart wouldn't be broken once the summer was over.

I won't deny that I wanted to believe that this was the case, but my beliefs and decisions aren't usually based on my hopes or fears. I didn't believe that Alice wasn't in love with Jasper because that's what I wanted to believe, but rather because that's what my eyes showed me.

Please understand that my objections to Jasper and Alice weren't solely based on those which I mentioned last night in regards to you and I. His situation is very different from mine, but there were other reasons; reasons that though existing in our situation too, I'd conveniently chosen to forget.

I'll state these briefly:

Your mom's background, though not the greatest, was nothing compared to the embarrassing behavior displayed almost constantly by her, by your two cousins, and even occasionally by your father.

I'm sorry, Bella. Believe me, I'm not trying to hurt you by saying these things, but please let me assure you that despite those surrounding you, both you and Alice have always conducted yourselves in ways that could only garner respect and admiration. I'll only go on to say that from everything that happened that evening, I decided that the best thing to do would be to keep Jasper from making a mistake he'd most likely live to regret. He's my best friend, and I simply wished the best for him.

He left Forks the following day - as I'm sure you remember - planning to return.

This is when I stepped in.

You see, Tanya was as uneasy with the entire situation as I was, so we decided that the best thing to do would be to keep him out of Forks. That's why we left for New York the next day, and that's why the first chance that I got I let Jasper know of my concerns. Still, however much these concerns may have weighed on Jasper I honestly don't know. What actually convinced him to stay away was my assurance that Alice didn't feel for him the way he felt for her. He'd been sure that she was as in love with him as he was with her. But however confident Jasper may seem, he's always been shy around women he cares about, and he's always given great value to my opinion. Therefore, it didn't take much to convince him that he'd been wrong. And it didn't take much to convince him to stay away from Alice once that assurance had been given.

I can't blame myself for what I did. It was done in the honest belief that I was helping him out. But I do blame myself for one thing, and that's that I went as far as keeping from him the information that Alice had tried to contact him and his cousins when she arrived in New York. Tanya told me that Alice had called her a few times, but Jasper, not knowing of this, convinced himself that I'd been right all along, and that the entire thing had been just a summer fling in Alice's eyes. In my defense, I thought she just wanted to hang out with some friends.

I'll admit that perhaps this was a bit too much, but it's done now and as I said, I only meant well.

I have nothing more to say on this subject; no more apologies to give. If I hurt your sister it wasn't on purpose, and though my reasons may seem inane to you, to me, they were completely justified.

As for that other accusation, that I ruined Mike's future, I can only answer that by giving you a long and complicated explanation of his exact connection to my family. I'm not sure what exactly he's accused me of, but I can guarantee you the truth of what I'm about to say, and can go as far as to encourage you to double check the facts with my cousin Peter, whom I know you've come to respect and trust in a way you've never done me.

Mike's father was an extremely great man. He helped my father manage our family's business for many years. He was more family than employee and as such our families were very close; my father was even godfather to Mike.

My dad loved Mike almost as a son. He paid for his private school education and hoping that he'd follow his own father's footsteps into law, intended to pay for that too.

As children, Mike and I were close friends, but as the years passed, and from everything that I heard him say and saw him do during our time together in private school, I was able to paint a clearer picture of the type of person he really was. He had…habits which I won't describe in specifics in this letter, but he did a good job of hiding them from his father and mine.

Once again, I'm afraid I might have to say things that will hurt you – how much so only you will know. But whatever feelings I suspect you harbor towards Mike won't stop me from saying what I have to say. On the contrary, it makes it all the more important that I do so.

My dad passed away five years ago. In his will, he left a generous amount for Mike – stating his hopes that it would be used towards earning the law degree Mike had always insisted he wanted to pursue. Mike's own dad passed away about a year after mine. Since, as I have said, Mike and I were no longer close, as soon as he received his inheritance, all ties between us were severed, and he disappeared.

A year later he returned, broke and claiming he'd lost the money on some financial schemes that hadn't worked out his way. He asked for more money, saying that he was now finally ready to pursue an honest career – medicine now, he said – and reminded me that my father would've wanted him to succeed.

Bella, it was for the memory of my father that I did agree to support his pursuit of a medical degree – on the condition that he would apply to any medical school of his choosing and I would pay the school directly. He insisted I give him the cash. I refused. We argued. He left and I both expected and hoped never to hear from him again.

I started hearing rumors about how he was living his life. Again, I won't repeat them, both because they aren't things I'd discuss with a lady and because I don't want to hurt you. He tried to contact me a few times, asking for money, cursing me, going as far as accusing me of disregarding my father's last wishes, but Bella, I more than heeded my father's wishes. After that, I didn't hear from him for awhile.

Last spring, that changed.

Bella, what I'm about to tell you are things that I wish I could forget myself, and nothing besides the present circumstances could ever induce me to repeat this. Having said that, I want you to know that though you may not feel the same, I trust you completely, and I know that I can count on you to keep this to yourself. It's why I wrote you a letter instead of an email – I don't even want these things on cyberspace.

My mother passed away a couple of years before my father, and when he died he left both my cousin Peter and myself as Rosalie's guardians. Rosalie is nine years younger than me.

A couple of years ago, Rosalie informed me that she was tired of attending boarding school, that she wanted to attend a normal high school, like normal girls. I have always indulged her, and honestly, I remembered what being in boarding school was like and could easily understand her dislike of it. So I agreed, and she went to live in our apartment in New York City. Since I was still in school in Dartmouth, I hired an attendant, a nanny you might say, for her, since she was still underage. What I didn't know was that Mike had at some point returned to the city and that he started spending a lot of time with Rosalie, alone, since the 'nanny', Ms. Cope, was apparently a good friend of his.

Rosalie became pregnant. Mike convinced her that I would be outraged with her, that I'd never forgive her, and being young, scared, thinking herself in love, she believed every word he said. He convinced her to have an abortion, and once she'd done that, he tried to blackmail her. He told her he'd tell me everything, how she'd been sleeping around with boys all over New York City for months, how she and Mike had been sleeping together behind my back, the pregnancy, claim that Rosalie had the abortion because she had no idea who the father was, and air everything out in public – unless she paid him an exorbitant amount of money.

Bella, Rosalie was barely seventeen at the time. She'd known Mike all her life. And she'd been brought up to avoid scandal at all costs.

I came home unannounced one day, and found Rosalie crying, curled up in a fetal position in her room. She confessed it all to me, her relationship with Mike, and the lies he'd threatened to tell if she didn't give in to his blackmail. She actually begged me to pay him because she didn't want to embarrass me in public. You can't imagine how that made me feel; that she could ever think I'd be embarrassed of her.

What Rose had failed to realize in her terror was that Mike was the one who had everything to lose in this situation. Rosalie was an underage minor at the time she began her relationship with Mike. I begged Rosalie to let me go to the police, but she was terrified of what people would think of her, so she convinced me to keep quiet. When Mike came over that day, unaware that I was home, I beat the hell out of him and warned him never to come near my family again or I'd kill him.

The abortion, the entire situation, messed with Rosalie's mind badly, Bella. I got her a therapist to work things out with, and stayed with her as much as possible until I finished school. She is just beginning to be herself again.

I hope you believe me, because I swear to you that everything I've said in this letter is the truth. And I hope if nothing else, you will at least take back your accusations of my being unnecessarily cruel to Mike. Maybe you'll wonder why I didn't tell you all this last night, but the truth is that my mind was in such an uproar that I couldn't think clearly enough to explain it all to you. As I said, if you have any doubts, you can speak to Peter, who knows about everything related to Rosalie, since he is her co-guardian. If your hatred of me makes it difficult to believe my words, you should at least be confident that Peter wouldn't lie, and in case you'd like to speak to him before he is deployed again, I'm going to try to get this letter to you as soon as possible.

I'll only add, God bless you and may you have the best of everything.

Edward Cullen.

A/N: Thoughts?