A/N Well, this is it! I just wanted to take a moment to thank each one of you who read and reviewed this story. It means more to me than I can express. Also, just because the story is complete. doesn't mean I don't value the feedback, so please submit a review. Let me know what you thought!
Also, I'm currently working on a collaborative story with TeamEdwardForever1998. It's a totally different story than this, but if you liked this, you'll LOVE Close to Home. Check it out and let me know what you think!
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Thank you all again... so so so much! XOXOXO
Three Years Later
"Alright, Leah. Mike and little Bree have already had their breakfast. There's plenty of food and breast milk in the fridge if they get hungry again. You know where the Baby Einstein DVD's are and how to work the TV. Between those and the Disney Channel, they should be fine while we're gone. Keep an eye on Mike; he has a tendency to find trouble anywhere. If something does happen, call Dr. Peterson. His number is written on the whiteboard by the door. Oh, and we won't be able to answer our cell phones, but I'll be checking mine as often as I can, so text me if you need anything, okay?"
Edward was there beside her chuckling. "Love, Leah has watched the kids before, she knows what to do in an emergency. Now we need to go so we can get to court before it starts, okay? I don't want to miss any of the closing arguments."
Bella sighed heavily as she took another look around. These past several months had been so hard. The trial was being held just about every day and Edward insisted they attend the whole thing. What she hated the most was the hungry look in James' eye every time he was wheeled into the courtroom. (The accident had caused him to permanently lose the use of his legs.) She would have nightmares sometimes about him coming after her or Edward again or even the kids. Mike and Bree were such an important part of their lives now, she didn't know what she would do if something happened to either of them.
Mike was two and was conceived the month after Bella and Edward were married. He looked so much like his daddy that Bella just knew he was going to be a little heartbreaker. She smiled at the memory, although it was sort of stressful at the time. With the wedding and everything that had been happening, she had never gone to see Carlisle to get her depo shot. She ended up getting pregnant with only two months left of school; she and Edward were both set to graduate in December. It was a little weird to be married in high school, but neither of them cared. They had each other and that was all they needed. The pregnancy could have complicated things, but with such a short time left of school, they decided to keep it from anyone but their family and closest friends. Esme got her wish for a grandchild fulfilled sooner than she thought too.
Bree was nine months old and was the epitome of a daddy's girl. She had Bella's chocolate brown eyes and mahogany hair and was absolutely flawless. She was also spoiled rotten, although if Bella was being honest, both of her kids were. Their entire family loved them so fiercely, they would do anything to protect them.
Bella was pulled out of her thoughts when Edward wrapped his arms around her. "Sweetheart, are you okay? We really do need to get going." Oh right, the trial.
"I'm ready. Just give me a second to say goodbye to the kids." She turned back to Leah, who had a sleeping Bree in her arms, and leaned in to kiss her angel on the forehead. "I love you Bree," she whispered so as not to disturb her. Next she approached the table where Mike was coloring in his Transformers coloring book. He seemed engrossed, but as soon as he felt Bella behind him, he turned around, completely animated. Bella pulled him into a tight hug and whispered to him that mommy and daddy loved him and would be back soon. Edward followed behind her, kissing Bree and then hugging Mike as well.
With their goodbyes said, Edward held the door for Bella and they walked out to his Volvo hand in hand.
Edward could remember the day he received the call from Charlie; the day that would change their lives. He had been sleeping next to his pregnant wife when the phone rang and woke him up. He glanced at the caller id, and when he saw that it was his father-in-law, he quietly slipped out of bed and into the hallway, closing the door before he answered the phone. He didn't want to wake up Bella.
"Well, good morning, Charlie! What's got you calling so early?" Edward had grown to love Charlie as if he were a third father. He felt truly blessed to have so many amazing people in his life.
Charlie got straight to the point, as always. "Edward, we need to talk about something really important, but I don't want to freak Bella out. I'm assuming she's still asleep?"
"Yeah," Edward said before a yawn overcame him. "Do you want to come here? We can talk over a cup of coffee in the kitchen." Charlie agrees and says he's already outside. Edward's heart starts beating a mile a minute and he knows that whatever Charlie wants to talk about is serious. He opens the door to his father-in-law and pulls him into a tight hug before leading him into the kitchen. "Alright Charlie, what's going on?"
"Son, there's no easy way to say this," Charlie began after taking a deep breath. "Police found a body in the desert outside of Los Angeles and ballistics matched the bullet with the gun James had on him when he kidnapped Bella."
Edward sucked in a deep breath, already knowing the answer to his question but still needing to ask. "Who was it, Charlie?"
"It was the girl who was going to testify against James in the rape trial. Her name was Kate Denali. She was shot twice in the chest and bled out. Poor girl."
Edward felt sick to his stomach as he thought about the fact that it could have been Bella. James had kidnapped her by gunpoint. If she hadn't have been quick minded, he may have done the same to her. "So what does that mean, Charlie?"
Charlie went on to explain that more charges would be brought against James, this time including murder. He told Edward how the murder case would take precedence over all the charges in Washington and James would more than likely be extradited to LA County for that trial. He then explained that he was trying to get some strings pulled in order to speed up the court process there in Washington. He was hoping that James' trial there would be over and done with by the time the District Attorney in LA pulled a case together. He was confident that he would be able get it done though.
Charlie was right. He had been able to expedite the trial in Forks. James was found guilty of assault with a deadly weapon, kidnapping, and attempted rape. He was sentenced to seven to fifteen years in prison with no possibility for early parole.
His trial in LA County had taken much longer. Edward and Bella actually moved there temporarily so they could attend each day. With Esme's help, they were able to find a nice, small house to rent on a month-to-month basis while the trial occurred. Two months stretched into four and then to six. Luckily, they were able to go home to Forks on the weekends and during any extended breaks in the trial. It was always a relief to get out of all the smog and hustle and bustle of the big city and back to their small, peaceful town.
Everything was coming to an end though. After closing arguments today, all that was left was for the jury to deliberate. The prosecution had presented an ironclad case and he had no doubt in his mind that James would be found guilty, but he had to know for sure. Charlie, along with Carlisle and Esme had flown in last night to show their support and Edward was grateful for that. As he led a very distracted Bella to the car this morning, he knew they could use all the support they could get.
The lawyers gave their closing arguments but Bella couldn't listen. She was focused on James, who kept turning to stare at her with a hungry look in his eyes. She knew she didn't have to be afraid of him with her family by her side, but she couldn't help it. Each time James would turn around, Edward would pull her into his side and whisper sweet words into her ear.
"It's okay, Love. I'm here. He can't hurt you. He's never going to hurt anyone ever again, I promise."
She knew he was saying what he thought she needed to hear, but she could also hear the conviction in his voice. He felt like he had failed her once all those years ago and she could tell he was determined to never let it happen again. With each day that passed, she grew to love him more and more.
After closing arguments were done, the judge gave the jurors instructions and then sent them out to deliberate. James was wheeled out of the courtroom next, but as he left, he caught Bella's eye and licked his lips. He was still trying to get to her and if she was being honest, it worked. The only way she would ever feel fully at peace was if he was found guilty and sent to prison for the rest of his life.
Edward wanted to kill that no good sonofabitch. As he was being pushed out of the courtroom, he did something that caused Bella to cower into Edward's side. By the time he looked toward the creep, James had a big smirk on his face. He met Edward's gaze and winked at him just before disappearing through the door.
Charlie put a reassuring hand on his shoulder as he held Bella close to him. "It's okay, Son. The case is so strong. I'll bet the jury comes back with a guilty verdict sometime today. Let's go grab some lunch and then we can go back to the hotel to hang out. They'll call you when the jury comes back and it'll only take us a few minutes to get here."
Edward looked toward Carlisle and Esme who both nodded their approval of Charlie's plan. Finally, he looked down to Bella and noticed her eyes were glassy. "What do you say, Love? Wanna go get something to eat and then go hang out while we wait? You know how much the food here sucks."
A laugh escaped from Bella's mouth and made Edward smile. "Sure," she said smiling up at him. "I'm up for anything, as long as it's with you." Together, they all walked out of the courthouse to grab a bite to eat and wait for the verdict.
Two hours later, Edward's cell phone rang. This was it, the call they had been waiting for. Edward was told that the jury was in and they needed to head back to court to hear the verdict.
As they sat in the courtroom, he had his arm wrapped tightly around Bella, securing her to his side. He knew she felt comforted by his touch alone and he could only imagine how stressed she was in that moment.
One by one, the jurors filed into the juror box and took their seats. They all had poker faces securely in place as they waited for the judge to reconvene the trial.
"Has the jury reached a verdict?" the judge asked the foreman.
"We have, Your Honor."
"For the charge of aggravated rape in the first degree, how do you find?"
"We the jury, find the defendant, James A. Ellsworth, not guilty."
Edward's heart dropped into his stomach. He knew the rape charge was a long shot at best because Kate couldn't testify, but they wanted to charge him with it anyway. He only hoped that the murder charge would have better results.
"For the charge of murder in the first degree, how do you find?"
"Guilty, Your Honor."
And that was it; the three words they had waited more than three years to hear. James was found guilty. The judge set the sentencing hearing out one month and adjourned. Edward could finally take Bella and the kids home, where they belonged, and they would be able to live their lives without fear. This was the beginning of their happily ever after.
A/N Don't forget to click the review button!
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyers owns Twilight. The thoughts and ideas behind this story are my own.