AN: My love and thanks to the awesome SabLuvslogan for giving this a read and her nod of approval. Also, ginormous props to the ever-awesome ysar, who makes Rabbit Heart pretty and beta'd and deal with my crappy comma usage, lol!
An enormous, huge, gigantic thank you to the ladies who keep me company in WCs on Skype and Twitter. You guys put up with my crazy ass and always give such awesome encouragement! I can't mention everyone for fear of leaving someone out, but you know who you are and I completely adore you! *mwah*
Chapter 20: You and I
Something, something about this place
Something, 'bout lonely nights and my lipstick on your face
Something, something about my cool Nebraska guy
Yeah something about
Baby, you and I
You and I by Lady GaGa
Bella recognized his touch and voice at the same time. Her still-racing heart did a flip-flop, and she leaned back into his chest, breathing in deeply through her nose before turning around.
Green eyes and a bright smile filled her vision, setting off an explosion of relief through her veins. She wrapped her arms around him, stifling a small sob.
"Edward," she gasped, squeezing him tightly.
His lips pressed against the top of her head as his arms wound around her shoulders.
"Princess," he whispered. "I missed you so much."
She allowed herself a few moments of tears and relief before pulling herself together and smiling up at him lovingly.
"Oh, babe," she murmured, cupping his cheeks. "I've missed you. So, so much."
He leaned down and captured her lips in a sweet, gentle kiss. Her hands slid up his chest and tangled in his messy copper hair. The sound of a throat clearing behind the couple caused them to pull apart slightly. Looking around Edward's shoulder, Bella saw Alistair standing in the doorway.
Edward turned his head, following her gaze. He shifted, tucking her possessively into his side before acknowledging the newcomer. Alistair cocked an eyebrow at the other man's action and smirked.
"You must be Edward," Alistair said, holding his hand out in greeting.
Edward replied with a warm smile and firm handshake. "That I am. I take it you're Alistair?"
The other man returned his smile. "I am indeed."
"Thanks for all of your help with the flight scheduling."
Bella turned to her bodyguard with a look of surprise. "You knew he was coming?"
Alistair smiled softly. "You've been so kind to me that I wanted to do something nice for you in return. I know you missed each other, so it was the least I could do."
She gave him a grateful smile. "Can you give us a few minutes?"
Her bodyguard rolled his eyes playfully. "I'll be back in fifteen."
The door was barely shut before she was straddling Edward's lap and kissing him hard. His hands threaded through her hair, and he gasped against her lips.
"Fuck," he whispered jaggedly. "I've missed you so much, Princess."
She rested her forehead against his. "Oh, Edward, me too. I can't believe you're here."
He pulled back, his eyes twinkling, and smiled brightly. "We've got twelve minutes, let's use them wisely."
All too soon, knocking on the door pulled them apart.
"Come in," she called out in laughter.
Alistair poked his head in comically, making sure the coast was clear.
"Are you guys decent?"
Edward chuckled and subtly adjusted himself. "It depends on what you consider decent," he muttered to himself.
Bella grinning, biting on her lip. She turned to her bodyguard and motioned toward the door.
"Can you figure a way out of here so we won't be seen?"
Alistair nodded and exited the room swiftly. When she turned to Edward, she noticed a line had formed in the middle of his forehead, his brows furrowed in thought. She tugged his hand, bringing his attention back to her.
"Why are we looking for a way to sneak out?" he asked, after a moment's hesitation.
"To avoid the paps," she replied with a smile that fell when the serious look on his face stayed in place.
"Do you normally avoid them?"
She cocked her head to the side. "No, not usually. I've gotten used to having them around."
"Then why now?"
"So they don't swarm all over you. They'll ask a million questions and make speculation. I'd rather sneak you out quietly and avoid that."
His frowned deepened. "But why? Are you ashamed of being seen with me?"
Her jaw dropped. "Of course not," she practically screeched. "Why on Earth would you think that? I love you."
His words abruptly stopped as Alistair strode confidently back into the room.
"Alrighty, folks, let's get this show on the road. We have a small window of opportunity."
Oblivious to the tension in the room, Alistair motioned for Bella and Edward to follow him. After silently slinking down three flights of stairs, the trio popped out a door, exiting to the back parking lot, where a dark tinted car was waiting for them. Alistair opened the back door, ushering the other two inside before settling himself into the front passenger seat.
A dour looking man sat in the driver's seat, pulling off without saying a word. Bella turned to Edward, who was staring out the window. She sighed and was about to speak to him when her phone vibrated. She warily pulled it out of her pocket, half expecting it to be another blocked number. Surprised to see it was James calling, she answered immediately.
"Hey, Jame," she answered.
Alistair's gaze met hers in the rearview mirror, a grimace upon his face. She arched a brow in question, but he just shook his head slightly, glancing away.
"Hey, Iz," James replied brightly. "Did Al tell you I called earlier?"
"Um, no, but I caught the tail end of the conversation, I think. Why? What's up?"
"That little shit," James muttered under his breath before clearing his throat.
"I'm in a bit of a bind, babe. I know you're exhausted, but I need a favor."
"What kind of a favor?" she asked suspiciously.
"There's an award thing tonight, and I need a date. I was going to go alone, but my publicist is giving me shit for not taking you, since everyone knows you're back in town."
She rubbed her head and groaned, a multitude of feelings crashing through her. She was annoyed at Alistair for interfering, and she only wanted to go home with Edward to talk things out, but she felt also guilty for blowing her friend off.
"I'm not sure if that's a good idea, James," she murmured quietly.
"Please, Izzy?" he begged. "I wouldn't ask you if it wasn't important. It would only be for a couple of hours."
She moved the phone away from her mouth, leaning over to ask Edward his opinion.
"Hey," she whispered, causing his eyes to meet hers. "James needs me to babysit him tonight at an awards show. Do you mind if I go? It will only be a couple of hours."
He eyed her carefully before nodding and silently glancing back out the window. She sighed heavily, unsure as to how to fix this rift between them. As she turned her attention back to her phone, she heard a dry chuckle in her ear.
"What's so funny?" she asked, irritated.
"You know, he's your bodyguard, not your father. You don't have to ask him for permission, Iz. Just tell him."
She laughed lightly. "I wasn't talking to Alistair, you dope. I was asking Edward."
"Edward?" he practically screeched. Both Alistair and Edward turned towards her in surprise at the sound.
"Man, I am so sorry," James continued. "I feel even worse knowing your boy is here. Why didn't you tell me?"
"He surprised me," she replied, looking over at Edward shyly. Her heart thrummed in her chest as his expression softened, and he smiled at her, resting his arm around her shoulders. She melted into his side and was assaulted by the feeling of being home.
She closed her eyes and drifted off for a minute, pulling herself back only when James mentioned something about time.
"Wait, what was that?" she asked.
"I know the sexy carpenter is distracting, but pay attention for a minute, okay?"
She flushed slightly at having been caught by her friend, even if he was all the way across the city at the moment.
"Fine," she mumbled.
"What I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted," he continued haughtily, "is that I'll pick you up in a limo at seven-thirty. Is that cool with you? I figure two hours at the awards and then maybe an hour afterwards? I can have you back in Eddie's arms by ten."
She agreed and quickly finished up her call just as they arrived at her house. It was large and ostentatious from the outside, but the inside was warm and cozy. The house was one of the small concessions she'd made to her mother a few years back. Renee had wanted her to at least appear to be living the high life in a mansion, but Bella was able to talk her down to a six bedroom, enormous, three story house in Beverly Hills.
Alistair walked Bella and Edward to the front door, waiting as she disarmed the security system and unlocked the door. The bodyguard followed the couple into the foyer and smiled as he looked between them.
"You guys okay here? I'm going to get Marvin to take me back to my car, and I'll swing by later to talk about this event tonight."
Bella turned and narrowed her eyes at him. "We'll be fine, thanks. Oh, and later we'll be talking about your butting in where you don't belong."
Alistair shot her a boyishly handsome smile and shrugged. "Like I told you earlier, my job is to protect you, and I take my job seriously." He squeezed her shoulder gently, laughing at her exasperated expression.
He turned to Edward and offered his hand. "Edward, once again, nice to meet you. You've got your hands full with this one."
Edward snorted as he shook the man's hand. "You're not kidding about that."
Bella rolled her eyes playfully as she closed the door behind Alistair, finally finding herself alone with Edward. She glanced over toward the door where she noticed a suitcase and bag that she hadn't seen before.
Following her line of sight, Edward cleared his throat nervously. "They're mine. Mac picked me up from the airport, and we dropped them off here before meeting you. I, erm, wasn't sure where they should go." A blush began to make it's way across his cheeks as he began to stammer over his words. "I-I mean, I can find a hotel if you'd rather I not—"
She cut him off by throwing herself into his arms and pressing her lips against his. His mouth was still at first, but he quickly gave himself over to desire. He groaned and pulled away slightly.
"What am I going to do with you?" he whispered against her skin.
She pressed one, two, three quick kisses to his lips. "Just love me," she whispered.
"I always will, Princess. Now why don't you show me where to put my bags?"
She smiled brightly and led him upstairs to her bedroom. He set his bags down and eyed the king size bed longingly.
"Tired?" she asked.
He gave her a half-smile and nodded.
"Come on then," she replied, walking over to pull his shirt over his head. "We've got a few hours, so let's take a nap."
Once they'd stripped down to the bare minimum, the pair curled up, Bella resting her head on Edward's chest. Nothing more was said of their earlier conversation as they drifted quickly to sleep.
Three hours later, Bella was awakened by the shrill ringing of her house phone.
"'Lo?" she mumbled sleepily.
"Young lady, drag yourself and that handsome man out of bed, and come let me in to help you get ready for tonight."
"Tanya?" she asked, her head still fuzzy from sleep.
"No, it's your Fairy Godmother," Tanya replied sarcastically. "I figured you could use some girl time to get ready for this last minute date of yours."
Bella sat up and yawned widely. "S'not a date," she mumbled.
"It better not be," Edward grumbled in a gravelly voice.
Bella giggled as he pulled her back down and into his arms.
"Okay, okay, I don't want to be hearing this, Isabella," Tanya said quickly. "And I'm sure neither does your uncle."
"Damn straight I don't," Mac called into the phone.
Bella groaned. "You brought Mac?" she whined.
Tanya laughed. "Of course I did. I figured he could keep the pretty man company."
"I'll be down in two minutes."
She sighed and rolled to the edge of the bed, plopping her feet on the rug before finding a pair of yoga pants to slip on with her undershirt. She yawned again and stretched before looking over at Edward, only to find him smiling at her.
She leaned over and tugged at the covers. "Come on, lazy bones."
He laughed and stood up, inviting her eyes to wander over the hard muscles of his abdomen and chest.
"Uh, babe?" he questioned, clearing his throat.
Her eyes snapped up to his, her cheeks warming. He smiled and shook his head.
"I'm going to hop in the shower, okay?"
She nodded and left the room, giving him some privacy. After letting Tanya and her uncle into the house, Bella chatted with them for a bit until Edward came down. Once he was delivered into Mac's hands, Tanya dragged Bella upstairs to pick out a dress and get ready.
In less than an hour, Bella showered, had her hair and makeup done, and was slipping on midnight blue dress. The silk caressed her skin softly, falling to mid-calf. Tanya applied the finishing touches on her makeup and smiled.
"Let's go show you off, sweetie."
She wasn't used to wearing such high heels anymore, so her first few steps were a bit wobbly, and Tanya held onto her hand as they slowly descended the stairs. Mac and Edward were sitting in the living room, watching a basketball game. They both looked up at the same time as Tanya squeezed into the space between them.
"Ugh, I hate these stupid shoes," Bella grumbled as she practiced walking around the living room in four inch silver heels. "Why do I have to go this thing again?"
"Well, who was traipsing around the back woods in sneakers for the past few months?" Tanya smirked from her seat on the couch, close to Mac. "Plus, you were the one who agreed to be James' arm candy for this awards show."
Bella stopped and put her hands on hips in annoyance. "Thanks for the support, Tanya," she replied sarcastically, a smile tugging at her mouth.
Tanya threw her head back and laughed. "I was only joking earlier. I'm not actually here as your Fairy Godmother tonight, honey. I'm here to hang out with you uncle."
She glanced over at Edward, who was studiously avoiding her gaze. "Baby?" she called to him softly.
He looked up and gave her a small smile. "You look beautiful," he replied softly before standing up and walking out onto the veranda.
She shot the others a questioning look, and Tanya rolled her eyes.
"Go talk to him," the older woman suggested. "He's probably just feeling inadequate because you're on James' arm tonight."
Bella's eyes widened. "B-but he knows that James is just my friend."
Tanya arched an eyebrow. "So? Jealously never takes reason into account."
She sighed and turned to follow her boyfriend. Outside, she found him leaning against the railing, his forearms bearing his weight. She touched his back tentatively, rubbing soothingly.
"Hey," she spoke softly in the unusually quiet night. Normally, the Beverly Hills air was a cacophony of noise, but it seemed as if the hubbub was elsewhere tonight. More than likely Los Angeles was a flurry of activity, where the crowds were gathering to catch a glimpse of their favorite celebrities.
He glanced at her briefly, turning back to gaze out at the bright lights of the city.
"You're still upset with me about earlier?" she mused.
Edward shrugged slightly, not trusting his voice at the moment.
"Edward, please," she whispered, her voice on the verge of pleading. "I love you, but I need you to understand this. I'm not trying to hide this. I just want to protect you."
He turned to her, his eyes intense and burning. "You never learn, do you?"
The sadness in his voice broke her heart. Her lower lip trembled as she tried to hold back tears.
"This is different," she replied, her voice shaky.
"How? You're still making decisions based on what's best for Bella. I have an opinion and a say in this, too, whether you want to admit that or not."
"You don't understand," she practically begged. "There's stuff going on that you have no clue about."
He shot her an exasperated look before glancing back off into the distance. "Why does that not surprise me?" he replied in a cold voice.
"Edward, please—" she started.
"Bella!" Mac called from the living room. "James is here!"
Frustration rolled through her. There was no way she'd have enough time to explain everything to him now, and she was kicking herself for not telling him sooner.
"I'm sorry," she whispered into the night air, dropping her hand from his back. "I promise I'll tell you everything when I get back."
Disappointment stung her heart when he replied with nothing but silence, and she turned and started back inside. She'd barely made it through the archway when she felt his hand on her arm. She turned to him slowly, somewhat scared to see the emotion on his face, but when she looked into his eyes, he was smiling sadly. He cupped her cheeks gently and leaned down to press his lips against hers.
"I love you," he murmured against her lips. "I'll be here to listen when you're ready."
She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed tightly. "I won't be long."
He stepped back, nodding solemnly.
"Edward!" James called, striding across the room to shake his hand. "Good to see you, man!"
Edward gave him a genuine smile and grasped the other man's hand. "How's it going, James?"
"Good, good," he replied, taking Bella's arm. "Thank you for letting me borrow your lady for the evening."
Edward grinned good-naturedly. "It's quite alright. Just return her without any damage, and we'll call it even, all right?"
James nodded enthusiastically. "I think between Alistair and Felix, we'll be fine tonight."
"Felix?" Edward asked in confusion.
"His bodyguard," Bella replied softly. "They're cousins, and Felix is a riot."
"Ah, okay," he mumbled.
With one last smile, he kissed her on the forehead and told her he hoped she'd have good time. She highly doubted she'd have much fun, knowing that he was at home waiting for her.
Chapter song: You and I by Lady GaGan.
Oh, and have you guys heard of The Sparkly Red Pen? (see what I did there?) It's a site dedicated to helping people find prereaders and betas to help them learn and grow to become better writers. I'm a prereader there, and I know for a fact that there are some excellent betas on staff as well. Check it out sometime! sparklyredpen(.)com
Also, I've entered a o/s in The Lemonade Stands Lyrics & Lemons contest! It's anon, so check them out and see if you can figure mine out. Leave the authors some love while you're there! www(.)fanfiction(.)net/u/2942359/