AN: After some Twitter drama this weekend, we're welcoming the amazing ysar as Rabbit Heart's new Beta, and I'm very thankful to have her!

Thank you to Profitina for the chapter song! She's been pulling hard for it since she started reading RH! *mwah*

More on that front at the end AN. =)

Chapter 17: The Climb

.
O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O

The struggles I'm facing
The chances I'm taking
Sometimes might knock me down
But no, I'm not breaking

I may not know it
But these are the moments that
I'm gonna remember most
Just gotta keep going

..

The Climb by Miley Cyrus

O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O
.

The Wednesday after Valentine's Day found Bella at the bar in the early afternoon. She was working her last shift that night before spending the next day packing and with her friends. She wasn't looking forward to leaving on Friday, but she knew it needed to be done.

She was leaning over, jotting down a list of what needed to be brought in from the main cooler, when she heard the door open. She didn't bother to glance over, already expecting Emmett to show up any minute.

"I know who you are."

Surprised by the voice echoing through the empty bar, Bella looked up. Her eyes widened as her gaze fell on Angela Weber standing cockily by the door with a hand on her hip.

"What are you doing here?" she replied, her voice full of venom. "We're closed."

Angela rolled her eyes and sauntered over to the bar, leaning down on her elbows. "I walked in the door, sweetheart," she replied with a sickly sweet smile. "It was unlocked." She smirked, flipping her long brown hair over her shoulder.

"And I wouldn't try to deflect if I were you," she continued in a triumphant tone. "I know who you are, Izzy."

Bella felt her blood run cold when Angela emphasized her stage name. "I don't know what you're talking about," she denied.

Angela scoffed. "Oh, don't play dumb, Isabella. I know all about you. Forks' prodigal daughter, slumming it away from her superstar lifestyle."

Bella's eyes narrowed, and she felt a surge of anger shoot through her. "What do you want, Angela?" she demanded through gritted teeth.

Angela splayed her hands on the bar top and leaned forward aggressively. "I want you gone."

Bella snorted derisively; she was leaving in two days anyway, but she wasn't about to share that news with Angela. "Why? Why is so important to you that I leave town?" she asked, already knowing the answer.

The model pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow. "I think you know exactly what I want. As soon as you're out of the picture, Edward will fall right back into line."

"And if I refuse?" Bella taunted.

"Then I will contact every media hound I know. This little town will be swarming with paparazzi before night falls." She smirked and pushed off of the bar, standing straight and sneering down at Bella. "You're used to that lifestyle, but what about the people who live here? How will poor Mrs. Johnson deal with hundreds of nosy photographers trampling her daisies? Or how about dear, sweet Mr. McCarty? Will he appreciate random strangers going through his trash in hopes of finding something that belonged to Izzy Dwyer? They'll eat this place alive."

Bella swallowed and met the other woman's stony gaze, showing no fear. It's not like she hadn't had these same thoughts over the past few weeks, but having Angela throw them in her face made her blood boil. She stepped back away from the bar and leaned against the wooden pillar behind her. Sensing a weakness in her prey, Angela continued.

"And what about your friend, Chief Black? He'll have his work multiplied tenfold." She smiled widely, unaware that Bella's temper was at its boiling point. "Oh, and poor Edward. You know how he is; do you really think your complicated life will appeal to him and his simple ways? You're a fool if you think that he'll want to deal with all of the chaos that follows you."

Her last comment hit Bella like a bucket of ice water. She had no doubt that Edward loved her, but even with her plans to move closer, would he be able to deal with the shitstorm that came with being a celebrity?

Not knowing when to keep her mouth shut, Angela continued with her taunting. "So what happened in L.A., Bells? Did your gold-digging mommy turn you into a whore to get to the top?"

Thoughts of Edward flew from her mind, and everything in her line of sight took on an angry, red hue. Angela was perilouslyy close to pushing Bella over the edge. She was completely unaware of the danger, though, too caught up in the satisfaction she gleaned from taunting her former friend to notice as Bella slipped her earrings out and set them on the bar.

"What about dear, old Daddy? What would the Chief think of how you've sold yourself for fortune and fame?"

"You don't know shit!" Bella cried out, ducking under the bar's swing-top counter and coming toe-to-toe with Angela, who was three inches taller than her. "You can talk all the shit you want about me, but keep my father's name out of your mouth."

"Or what?" she replied insolently.

Angela's tone finally broke Bella's resolve, and she felt her fist flying—connecting with Angela's jaw—before she even realized what she was doing. Angela gasped, falling to one knee as Bella flexed her hand, trying to alleviate the pain radiating from her knuckles. Catching Bella unaware, Angela reached around and hit her in the back of the knee, bringing her crashing to the floor. Jumping on top of her rival, Angela grabbed a fistful of Bella's hair and yanked, causing her to scream in pain. Bella grasped at Angela's hands, scratching and trying to pry them from around her locks. When she realized it was futile, she tangled her fingers into Angela's hair as well, intent on inflicting enough pain to make her let go.

Angela gave up her hold almost immediately and rolled away, quickly climbing to her feet and kicking Bella squarely in the stomach.

"Unf!" Bella grunted, clutching her abdomen in pain.

"Not so hot now, are you, rich little bitch?" Angela jeered.

Angela bent down, going for Bella's hair again, when Bella thrust her leg out and knocked her back to the floor. This time, both women jumped to their feet at the same time and began circling each other around one of the tables. Angela wiped at her split lip and spat blood, the sticky mess hitting the floor near Bella's feet.

"I am going to kick your ass, Swan!" she threatened.

Bella stopped in her tracks and made a "bring it" movement with her hand. "I'd like to see you try, Weber."

The door opened, and she briefly heard Emmett shouting. Bella put her hand up, gesturing for Emmett to stay back, keeping her eyes on Angela's prowling form.

"Stay back, Em! This whore is mine." she called out to her cousin.

"Angela? What the fuck are you doing?" Edward interjected.

Bella's eyes briefly flickered toward Edward, and Angela seized her opportunity. She swiftly shoved a chair out of the way and dove at Bella, her shoulder slamming into Bella and knocking her back into the bar. Reacting quickly, Bella swung back at Angela, catching her with a punch to the gut and causing the model to pitch over in pain. Wrapping her hands back into Angela's hair, she forcefully yanked on the girl's head and drove her knee into Angela's face. The sound of crunching bone was immediately followed by Angela's scream as she fell to the floor, clutching her face in pain.

Bella stumbled back and leaned against the bar for support, trying to catch her breath.

"Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!" Angela hollered, her voice thick and distorted. "You broke my fucking nose!"

"You're lucky that's all she broke," Emmett growled.

Bella felt Edward's arms wrap around her from behind, and she relaxed against him as her breathing slowed. He turned her around, his fingers ghosting over her face, trying to make sure she wasn't harmed. She attempted to smile for him, but she only ended up grimacing and wincing when his fingers gently touched her sore scalp. His eyes flashed with anger, and he glared at Angela, still whining and writhing on the floor.

"Emmett, call Jacob," he directed in an eerily calm voice, never removing his gaze from his former love.

Angela looked up at him in surprise. "You can't be serious!" she screeched. She pointed a bloody finger at Bella. "She started it, and she broke my nose! How can you take her side?"

"Very easily," he replied calmly.

Angela scrambled to her feet and smirked maliciously. "Fine, be that way. Once I'm finished with Izzy here, she won't be able to sing at an open mic night."

Edward took in a deep breath before replying in a deceitfully soft voice. "Do you forget who you're dealing with, Ange? You have skeletons in your closet, too, you know. And you know exactly what I'm talking about."

Angela blanched, her face losing every ounce of color as her eyes grew wide with fright. "You wouldn't," she whispered brokenly. "You promised."

"I would if you fuck with Bella," he replied, his tone leaving no room for speculation.

She stiffened her back and stood with as much dignity as she could muster. "Fine," she ground out between clenched teeth. "I'll walk out that door, and I won't utter a word about your precious girlfriend. But you keep your mouth shut about what you know, and don't bother calling Black. Deal?"

Edward nodded tersely. "I'm serious, Angela."

She sneered. "I am, too, Edward," she replied haughtily, before turning and walking out of the bar.

Emmett put his hands on his hips and turned to his best friend. "What the hell was that about?"

"She came in here and threatened me, running her mouth. She mentioned my dad, and I punched her."

Emmett grinned widely and came over to pat her on the back. "That was badass, Scrappy. I'm proud of you; that girl's needed her ass kicked for a while now."

Bella rewarded him with a small smile and shook her head, instantly regretting the movement when her head throbbed in protest. She gently rubbed her scalp, trying to ease some of the soreness.

"Em, I'm going to take her home," Edward said quietly. "Will you be okay tonight, or do you want me to come back and help?"

Emmett waved him off. "Don't worry about it; we can handle it. Just take care of her." He walked over and lay a kiss on Bella's forehead.

Bella wrapped her arms around Emmett's waist. "I'll be fine, Shaggy."

He pulled back with a grin and winked at her. "I know, but I don't think Ed will be."

Edward smirked and pulled her into his arms. "What can I say? The man knows me well."

She leaned back into him once again and sighed. "For once, I'm not in the mood to argue with you, Em. I just want to go home, relax, and take some aspirin."

Emmett shooed her with his hands. "Then go, woman. I'm sure my dad needs some help packing while you're at it." He stopped for a moment and wagged a finger in her direction. "And don't think I'm not grateful to you for taking him with you. The old man can stand to get some sun."

She nodded and walked to the exit, hand-in-hand with Edward. As her fingers touched the knob, she turned around once more and addressed her cousin. "I'll take care of him, Em. I promise."

Emmett smiled and nodded. "I know you will. Now, go get some rest."

With one last wave, she was gone, leaving Mac's Bar & Grille behind her.

.
O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O
.

The rest of Wednesday was spent on Edward's couch, cuddling and discussing plans for the future. Knowing that Friday was going to bring an emotional goodbye, their conversations were kept light-hearted. Bella planned on sitting down to talk to her agent as soon as she arrived back in L.A. and set up an extrication plan. The more she thought about taking a hiatus from performance and focusing on writing instead, they more she was enamored with the idea. She definitely wasn't interested in going back to the poppy feel that her music label insisted upon. She'd have Tanya contact Volturi Records and pitch the idea to them. If they weren't up for negotiations, she was sure that there was another label just waiting to snatch her up. Willing to offer her the creative freedom she'd been yearning for.

On Thursday, Rose and Alice kidnapped her for a girl's day at Allie's salon. She was tempted to pout at having to be away from Edward, but she knew she'd miss the girls terribly, and she was happy to indulge in a girly day with them.

Knowing they'd have to be up early for the ride to the airport, Edward spent the night at their house. Mac wisely decided not to bust their chops about it.

The trek through the airport took longer than expected. Mac tried not to roll his eyes when he noticed Bella dragging her feet, but he remembered what young love was like, so he gave the couple some space.

The imposing security gate loomed in front of them all too quickly. Bella felt her chest ache at the thought of not seeing the man she loved for weeks, and she sniffled when her nose stung from the tears welling behind her eyes.

He tucked her head against his shoulder, holding her tightly. "It'll be fine," he whispered. "We'll talk to each other every day. Time will fly by; you watch."

Bella took in a shuddering breath, willing herself not to cry. He was right; it wasn't the end of the world. "I know," she murmured. "I just didn't realize that this would be so hard."

He kissed the top of her head and sighed. "I'll be out to visit in a few weeks, but I'm sure it'll feel like a lifetime."

She smiled, that one bright spot giving her the strength to pull away. Stretching up on her tippy toes, she kissed him sweetly one last time. His hands wrapped around her waist, and their kiss quickly turned passionate.

"Okay, lovebirds," Mac called out. "I hate to break up your moment, but we needed to be heading through security ten minutes ago."

Edward pulled bac, smiling down at Bella, but she could tell it didn't reach his eyes. She squeezed his hand and pecked his lips one more time before stepping back and making her way to her uncle's side. She forced herself to look forward as they made their way through the security check point.

Just as they were about to disappear from view, she glanced back. Edward raised his hand and smiled sadly. She returned the gesture before following Mac to their gate.

Bella paced as they waited to board. Mac sat back and watched in amusement, unused to seeing this nervous side of his niece.

"Are you okay, sweetheart?"

She slunk down in the chair next to him and smiled wryly. "James said he'd pick us up at the airport, but I doubt he'll be able to duck the paps. I have to warn you, they can be kinda ugly when they want a reaction from you."

Mac raised an eyebrow. "It can't be that bad, can it?"

She shook her head. "Just wait and see. It's a madhouse sometimes."

.
O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O
.

After the two hour flight, Bella was quick to get up and stretch her legs once the sign came on saying they were free to unbuckle their seat belts. Waiting for first class passengers to be ushered off of the plane, she sighed and rested her head on her uncle's shoulder.

"I have so much to get done, just as fast as humanly possible," she murmured softly. "I feel like I'm going to fall flat on my face."

Mac slung his arm over her shoulder. "Sweetheart, there's always going to be another mountain, and you'll always want to make it move. It ain't about what's on the other side; it's about the climb."

Bella blinked owlishly and turned to face her uncle.

"Did you just quote Miley Cyrus to me?" she asked incredulously.

Mac shrugged nonchalantly, as if it were no big deal that a man his age could spout off Disney pop lyrics. "It fits, though."

He studied her for a moment before continuing. "You know, you kinda remind me of that Hannah Montana, by the way."

Her eyes widened comically. "What are you talking about? How do I remind you of her?"

"Well, you do live a double life as Izzy Dwyer," he speculated, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

"No, that's what my mom changed my name to. I'm not playing any games or wearing wigs to hide who I am. I'll walk away outright before they make do anything of the sort." She reached up into the overhead compartment and pulled out their carry-ons.

Mac patted her on the back gently. "Alright, alright, don't get yourself all riled up. It was just a joke."

She silently handed Mac the gray newsboy cap that he insisted was preferable to a ball cap. He reluctantly situated it onto his head and grumbled.

"Is this really necessary, Bella?"

She smiled sweetly, giving up on trying to prepare him for the vultures thatwould surely be awaiting them. "You'll see, Mac."

She spotted James within moments of gathering their bags from the luggage carousel, and there was already a small crowd gathered, taking photos. She pulled in a deep breath and steadied herself, preparing for hell to break loose. In a scene similar to her escape from this same city just two months ago, Bella slung her backpack and guitar over her shoulder, pulling her father's battered baseball cap down to hide as much of her face as she could.

When he caught sight of her, James rushed over, grinning as he swept her into a hug. "I missed you, Iz."

Almost instantly, blinding flashes went off all around them, and flashes began to blind her and voices started yelling.

"Izzy! Izzy! Is it true you were in rehab?"

"Izzy! Look this way!"

"Izzy! What happened to your hair?"

"Ms. Dwyer, is true that you disappeared to have James's love child?"

She turned back and almost laughed at her uncle's stricken demeanor. Two body guards began to usher them outside and into a waiting limo. Mac sat back against the lush interior and let out an unsteady breath.

"Believe me now?" she asked, sticking out her tongue in jest.

He wiped his face with his hands. "Holy shit."

James laughed and clapped the older man on the shoulder.

"Holy shit, indeed, Mr. McCarty. Welcome to Los Angeles."

.
O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O_o_O
.

Chapter song: The Climb by Miley Cyrus

As always, music is up on Rabbit Heart's Blog! (h t t p : / / rabbitheartff . blogspot . com) Just remove the spaces!

AN: Once again, thanks and eternal gratitude to ysar for coming on board to beta our story! Just so you guys know, although I may not thank my Betas and Pre-Readers every single chapter, I love and appreciate the hell out of them! You readers may be my heart and soul, but these guys are my backbone. They do an awesome job making sure you get your story on time (no thanks to my last minute tendencies) and at its best.

So, enormous hugs and much adoration to our new beta, ysar and our pre-readers: SabLuvslogan, StupidLambTanya, SammieLynnsMom and 107yearoldvirgin. I couldn't do this without you guys and I sincerely hope that you know I love you fiercely.