Chapter 12

As the Swan's walk upstairs, I release a breath I didn't know I was holding. I make my way to the kitchen, grab my glass of wine, and down the last of it contents. "Easy there brother," Emmett says behind me. I slowly turn around and give him a half smile before filling up my glass again.

"I don't know what to do anymore Emmett. One minute I think she's doing great and the next it's like she's an empty vessel."

"Hey, don't beat yourself up man. It's only been a couple of days, give her some time to adjust and cope. You're really doing a great job with her; I wouldn't even know where to start if I was in your position."

"Hm," I mumble staring at his feet. After a pause I let out a breath, "So I'm assuming the party is over?"

Emmett shrugs, "Nobody is racing to get out of the door if that's what you mean. Everyone's just worried about her. If you were hinting that you want us out, I can go kick everyone out," he offers.

"That's okay. Let's just go back to the living room and wait for them to come downstairs. But thanks Emmett," I say placing a hand on his shoulder.

We walk into the living room and there's a brief pause before everyone returns to their conversations. I'm relieved not to be bombarded with questions or sideways glances. I collapse onto a sofa with my wine and stare into space, not eager to join into any meaningless chitchat while Bella is upstairs reliving Friday night for her parents. I idly sip my wine, waiting for the slightest sound coming from upstairs. Half an hour later, I'm rewarded with the sounds of footsteps making the decent. I have to force myself not to rush to Bella's side when she walks into the room.

"Sorry for the scare earlier everyone," she says apologetically. She turns in my direction, "Edward can I talk to you for a couple seconds?"

"Sure," I murmur and follow her to the kitchen.

She looks at me meekly, reminding me of the first day she moved in with me. "My parents are going to take me to the police station to report it," she says quietly. "My dad's pretty upset with me for not reporting it right away, or telling them about it. Thank you for not pushing me though."

"No problem," I say walking towards her. "Did you want me to come with you to the police station? I'll probably have to make a statement anyways," I offer, wrapping my arms around her in support, causing her to place her hands on my chest.

"No, that's okay. If they need a statement from you, I'll just have them contact you. This is something I need to do by myself," she says looking up into my eyes.

Feeling slightly rejected I give a small smile and take a step back, "I'll be here when you get back then."

Placing her right hand on my cheek, she steps up on her tiptoes and kisses my left cheek, paralyzing me. "Thank you Edward. I'll see you later. And if everyone else hasn't been informed yet, it's okay if you tell them. There's really no use hiding it anymore."

"As you wish," I reply, watching her walk out of the room to rejoin her parents. I hear the front door shut, and sink onto a barstool, trying to process the last couple of minutes. My emotions are running wild, going from feeling appreciated to rejected to… loved? Or was she just being nice again?

"You okay, Edward?" Alice asks sitting down quietly beside me.

"I'm fine. Bella's parents are taking her to the police station to report the incident. She said it was okay to let everyone else know what happened," I say robotically.

"Hey," she says, turning my head towards her. "She wasn't ready before. I think her dad being a police chief was that little push she needed to report it. It has nothing to do with you. You've gone above and beyond for her; let her do this for herself."

"You're right," I murmur. "I'm just nervous she'll breakdown and I won't be there for her."

Alice gives me a small smile, "You love her."

I scowl at her, "You're the second person to tell me that today."

Her grin doubles in size. "Why won't you just admit it?"

"Because it's not true. Why don't you go bother someone else? Go tell them what's going on, I'll be back in a few minutes. I'm just going to step outside for some air," I say, refilling my wine once more and walking outside to the back porch.

I take a deep breath and release it, looking out over my yard. Do I love Bella? Strip Girl? I couldn't possibly; she's my employee. Her long brown hair and chocolate eyes, her laugh, not to mention her smile. "What am I doing?" I scold myself. These are not appropriate things to be contemplating at a time like this. She needs a friend right now to support her, not come on to her, not to mention I'm her boss. Do bosses really share their beds with their employees? "Enough!" I shout at myself.

"You okay there son?" my father's voice startles me.

I spin around, embarrassed by my outburst. "Sorry. I have a lot on my mind," I say by means of explanation.

"You're worried about Bella," it's a statement, not a question. I nod my head reluctantly. "From what your siblings and friends have been saying inside, you've done quite a lot for her. She's come to depend on you, and you her. And apparently this isn't the first time you've helped her."

"I'm just doing what any decent person would do dad. She doesn't deserve any of this, these boys treating her this way. I just want to protect her."

"You can't always protect the ones you love son, but you can be there for them to help pick up the pieces when they're ready," he says placing a hand on my shoulder. "You're mother and I are very proud of you."

"I haven't done anything though," I say in exasperation, pulling away from him and tugging at my hair. "I did it her way the first time, and ignored it like she wanted me to. And then I couldn't even protect her in our own home. What does that say about me? It took her parents coming over to get her to report it, I feel useless. What good am I?"

"Stop that Edward. You've done more for her by just being there and giving her what she needs: support and comfort. Don't over think things son; just keep doing what you're doing and you'll be fine."

I offer a weak smile, "Thanks dad. I really needed to hear that."

"I'm glad I could help. How about we go back inside and see if there's any food left, I think you've had enough wine for one night," he says taking my empty wine glass from the banister.

I give him a sheepish smile. "You're probably right," I agree, following him inside. We head into the kitchen where most of the food has already been put away. My mother and Alice are busy putting the remaining dishes away.

"Oh, honey," my mother cries, rushing over to me, embracing me in her arms. I sag against her, laying my head against the top of her head. "How are you doing, sweetie?"

"I'm okay. Dad and I just came in looking for some food."

"Of course," she replies, pulling away from me. She grabs a plate from the counter, removing the plastic wrap, "I made up a small plate for you before I put everything away. Here, sit down and eat."

I give her a sheepish smile, before I sit down and inhale the food she places before me. "Where is everyone else," I ask around a mouthful of food.

"They all went home shortly after your friends told us about what happened to Bella. We were all a little surprised that you guys didn't call off the party after Friday night's events. Everyone would have understood Edward."

"I know they would have. Bella insisted we still have the party. She didn't want to disappoint anyone and we figured it would just be easier to have everyone at our place instead of multiple little gatherings," I shrug.

A small smile appears on my mothers face before she quickly covers it, "Did you want us to wait with you until Bella and her parents get back?"

I pause momentarily, "No, that's okay. But thank you for asking. I'm sure Bella won't be up for much company when she returns."

"Of course, dear. You know we're always a phone call away if you need us. Bella seems like an amazing woman for her to have the love and friendship of all of my children so quickly."

"We do love her," Alice pipes up quickly before I can anything. "She's brought us our brother back."

I open and close my mouth multiple times to respond before closing it for good, not having anything to say in reply. Noticing my discomfort, Alice, Jasper, and my parents quickly say their goodbyes, leaving me alone to my thoughts. I finish cleaning up the rest of the kitchen so that Bella doesn't feel compelled to clean it up when she gets home, and then retire to my previous spot on the couch. I stretch out across the couch and try to picture where my life would be if Bella hadn't stumbled into my life.

It had been too long since I'd last seen or spoken to my parents, let alone how much more time I've been spending with Emmett and Alice recently. And I owe it all to Bella, this broken woman that's trying to remain strong for everyone else but herself. I don't know how long I'm lying here before I fall asleep.

Something lightly stroking my face slowly wakes me from my sleep. "Edward," a quite voice breathes close to my lips. "Mm," I hum, rolling into what I now realize is a hand softly brushing across my face. The movement of my head causes my lips to graze something soft and moist. A sharp intake of air and sudden movement above me causes my eyes to snap open. I'm greeted with the sight of a blushing Bella splayed out over the floor.

"Hi," she squeaks, before clearing her throat.

"Hi," I chuckle.

"I would have carried you to you're room like you've done for me in the past, but I don't think I would have accomplished much more than pulling you off of the couch," she blushes.

I laugh heartily, "In that case, thank you for the gentle wake up. That was much more appreciated than being woken up by falling on my face," I smile at her.

If it's even possible, her blush deepens. "Anytime," she mumbles.

I sit up and pull her from her strange sitting position on the floor, "Why are you on the floor," I ask curiously.

"Um, you startled me when you moved your head. I thought you were still asleep; I fell."

"Oh," I say confusedly, wondering what my lips brushed against. I would ask Bella, but she's acting a little strangely. "Oh!" I exclaim, "How'd it go down at the station?"

"Fine," she mumbles and looks away. "The police said that they would contact you and Emmett tomorrow. And that they didn't know how much they could do since I didn't report it right away," she shrugs.

"I'm sorry, love. Is there anything I can do?" I ask squeezing her hand I have yet to release.

"You're already doing it. Let's just go to bed," she says pulling me up from the couch and leading me towards the stairs.

"What time is it," I ask, wiping the sleep from eyes with my free hand.

"Going on nine o'clock. I know it's still kind of early, but I figured we could just watch a movie until we fall asleep. Is that okay?" she asks, slowing down to turn around and look at me, worrying I don't like her plan.

"Sounds perfect," I confirm, squeezing her hand to reassure her.

She gives me a brilliant smile before continuing up the stairs and leading the way into the bedroom. Once in the room, she releases my hand and walks into the bathroom to complete her bedroom routine. I automatically lock the door, and dress down to my pajama pants and t-shirt. I walk over to the bathroom and knock, "Is it okay if I come in and brush my teeth?" I hear a muffled response, taking it as confirmation; I open the door and stop in my tracks. Bella is hunched over the sink, brushing her teeth in only my t-shirt. I stand there, mouth agape before I snap out of it and try to make a hasty retreat.

"It's fine Edward," Bella rushes to say around a mouthful of toothpaste, grabbing my arm in the process. "You can stay."

I slowly turn around and look at her quizzically, "Are you sure? I didn't mean to encroach on your privacy."

"You're fine Edward, honestly. It's not like you walked in on me going to the bathroom. And besides, you've seen me in much less undress than this," she says confidently.

I nod dumbly at her and move robotically to my sink to brush my teeth. I've never had the need for two sinks before but I'm suddenly grateful for the extra one Alice insisted I needed when I bought the house. I can't help but think how much Bella fits here beside me. Stop it Edward, I scold myself. You're just helping a friend and employee through a rough time; don't get any ideas.

Bella finishes before me and retreats to the bedroom while I finish up. I walk back out into the bedroom where Bella has already crawled under the sheets with a movie playing quietly in the background. I flip off the overhead light and join her on the bed.

Bella turns on her side to face me, "Hi," she says quietly.

"Hi," I mumble nervously, still slightly embarrassed about walking in on her in the bathroom. "So what movie are we watching?"

"I don't really know. I just left it on the first movie that came on. I think it might be The Notebook, or something like that. You can change it if you'd like."

"No, that's fine. We can watch whatever you want. I'll most likely fall asleep anyway; it's been a long weekend. How are you holding up?"

"I'm okay. Thankful that today is over. I feel bad that I ruined everyone's day though. We were supposed to be celebrating our graduation and instead, I once again bring everyone into my drama," she cringes and turns away.

"No one thinks of it that way Bella. We're all just glad you're okay. That's more important than some silly graduation."

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have brought it up. I'm so tired of talking about it. How'd the rest of the party go," she says, finally turning back to me.

I grimace, "I'm not too sure. I went outside to get some air, and the next thing I know my dad is pulling me into the house and everyone else had left. I think it was fine though."

"I'm sorry-" she starts before I place my hand over her mouth.

"No more apologies. Now how about we watch this movie."

"Sure," she mumbles in agreement, snuggling up to my side. I smile and kiss her temple, trying to focus on the movie but having no luck with Bella in my arms. A few minutes later, her breathing evens out so I flip off the TV and nestle into Bella's side as much as I can without waking her. For the first time since I crawled into bed, I notice that she never put on any pants after she left the bathroom so she's dressed only in my shirt. I quietly groan into my pillow, trying to think platonic thoughts. Conjuring up the image of her on Friday night immediately stops any wandering thoughts I may have had. Sleep clams me quickly after that.

"Edward, wake up," Bella says softly. I open my eyes slowly, only to close them quickly, the light assaulting them unwelcome. "Edward," Bella chuckles, "If you wake up I have a surprise waiting for you."

"What time is it," I ask rubbing my eyes.

"A little after nine."

"Wow, I must have been more tired than I thought. Why are you up already?"

"I woke up about an hour ago and I thought I'd make you breakfast in bed as a thank you for everything you've done for me. Not only for the past few days but also from the moment you opened up your home to me. It really means a lot to me Edward."

For the first time I notice the smell of sausage and pancakes permeating the air. "You didn't have to do that Bella; you're too good to me. I'd do anything for you; you deserve the world. And next time I would prefer making breakfast with you, although I can hardly complain to being treated to breakfast in bed," I smile at her.

She places a tray of food across my lap, blushes and walks around to the other side of the bed before settling in next to me. "I'll have to keep that in mind. But really Edward, thank you. I don't know what I would do without you."

"I'm not going anywhere. Now let's eat," I say to break the heaviness that has settled over us. "You did bring enough for both of us right?" I ask when I notice there is only one tray.

"Well I can only carry one tray at a time and only one plate fits on it," she shrugs and looks away.

I glance down at the tray and chuckle, "Well that doesn't seem to be an issue; there is enough food on this tray to feed five people. And look, there just so happens to be two forks and two glasses of orange juice." I move the tray to rest between us and pass her the extra fork, "Imagine that."

She chuckles and takes the fork from my hand. "So what do you want to do today," she asks.

I shrug, "Doesn't matter to me. I think I'll start at the hospital next week, give myself a week after graduation to relax for a little bit. What about you?"

"That sounds like a good idea. Plus I need so time after, well, everything," she trails off sadly.

"Take as long as you need Bella. No one expects you to jump back into things so quickly."

"I guess," she shrugs. "I just hate this. I hate everyone having to walk around on eggshells when they're around me, I hate the suffocating feeling I get when something reminds me of that night, but most of all I hate being trapped in my head so much that I hurt you when I mistake you for him. You're the only one that can keep me in the now. I only managed through last night because I knew I'd be coming back to you," she sniffles, covering her face with her hands.

I move the tray onto the floor next to the bed and take Bella into my arms. "I'll always be here for you, as long as you want me," I say gently. "What you're feeling is absolutely normal. Don't worry about me love; it only hurts me to see you broken. I'm just thankful that I can take at least take some of your pain away. I wish I could do more for you."

Her breath hitches which I find odd. "What," I ask quizzically.

"It's nothing, I just don't think I'll ever get used to you calling me that," she murmurs.

I look at her confusedly, "Calling you what?"

"Love. You've been calling me that all weekend."

"I, uh," I stammer, rolling onto my back away from her. "I'm sorry. I didn't realize I was calling you that. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable."

"It's not that Edward. It just took me surprise that's all." I remain quite, staring at the ceiling, my mind running a mile a minute. "Hey," she says, turning my face towards her. Once I'm looking at her she places her hand on my chest. "Don't shut down on me now. You've never once made me feel uncomfortable."

"Are you sure," I ask, worriedly, placing my hand on top of hers.

"I'm sure. You should know me well enough by now to know that I would tell you if you made me uncomfortable in anyway. In fact, being here with you the past couple days has meant everything to me Edward. I don't think I can thank you enough for all that you've done for me."

I squeeze her hand, "I haven't done anything though."

"You've done more than you realize. If it weren't for you, I don't think I would have been able to go to the police station yesterday."

"I didn't even go with you. Your parents are the ones that talked you into going."

"No, not really. They may have given me that extra little push I needed, but knowing that I had your support one hundred percent if I reported it or not, that meant everything to me. I couldn't wait to leave the police station because I wanted to get back to you. You make me feel safe Edward. No one else is there for me like you are."

I'm left complexly speechless by her declaration and suddenly overcome with emotion I've never felt before. My chest gets tight and before I have time to analyze anything, I lean in a press my lips to hers in a soft kiss, wrapping my arm around her back, and pulling her to me.

Once realization of what I'm doing enters my brain, I pull away abruptly. "Shit," I exclaim, "I'm so sorry. I don't know what overcame me. I didn't mean to-" Bella places a hand over my mouth stopping me.

"Don't. Don't you dare apologize for that, not unless you really don't have any feelings for me. You don't know how long I've waited for that moment, and I don't need you ruining it by apologizing and saying it shouldn't have happened."

I'm once again left dumbstruck by the woman in my arms. "But I'm your boss," I offer lamely, stunned by her comments.

"Is that what this is about? Edward," she says, caressing my cheek, "I haven't thought of you as my boss for quite some time now. The only reason I never 'made a move' or anything was because I thought that you liked Rosalie. Do you think I would honestly have put myself in the position of sharing a bed with my boss? I mean, I know you are my boss, but I'd like to think that you're my friend first."

"You don't know how relieved I am to hear you say that. I've been torturing myself for a while now, trying to convince myself that you're just my employee. I-" I pause, trying to find the right words, "You mean so much to me Bella; I've never felt like this before. I'm scared that I'm going to push you away, especially after Friday."

"I promise you that if it ever gets to be too much I'll tell you."

"Okay," I agree, nuzzling into her neck. I relish the feeling of being close to her this way, and knowing it's not just comfort I'm offering her anymore.

A/N: Wow, I can't believe it's almost been a year since I've last updated. I am now currently half way across the world in Guam. To say things have been crazy since joining the military would be an understatement. I hope I haven't lost too many readers over the year. I hope this can somewhat make up for long break. Let me know what you think. Have I lost my touch over the past year?