Choke

EDWARD POV

"Women are degraded by the propensity to enjoy the present moment, and, at last, despise the freedom which they have not sufficient virtue to struggle to attain."-Mary Wollstonecraft

All things Twilight related belong to Stephanie Meyer.


Bella had something to say. It was on the tip of her tongue, but she wouldn't speak the words.

We were currently sitting in the back of a limo on the way to dinner before the opera. Alec and Jane were talking softly to each other and giggling like school children. Bella was seated on the other side of the seat, looking out of the window, trying to put as much space as possible between us.

I was trying not to become obsessed with her secret. What could it be? I didn't want to start thinking about what she was hiding, and it made my skin crawl the more I tried to guess.

The one thing that Bella and I had, above all else, was trust. We always told each other everything. What made this time so different? Was she sleeping with someone else?

My eyesight turned red as the thought passed me by. I had to calm myself down because I needed to have a clear head right now. Besides, I would certainly know if Bella was cheating on me.

So what is it?

Maybe Alec knew. I looked him up and down, trying to decide if he showed any signs of lying. He was more occupied with Jane and her hand in his. I was sure he wouldn't keep anything from me if it was big.

I then looked to Bella again. She was sniffling and trying to wipe tears from her face without me seeing. I sighed, knowing that whatever she was keeping was probably beating her up inside. She wanted to tell me, but couldn't. Why?

I stretched my arm out and wrapped it around her body from behind, pulling her across the seat. She slid into me and tried to hide her face.

"Bella, you're starting to worry me. Did I do something?" I whispered into her hair.

"No, I'm fine. I just need some time to think."

"Will you tell me soon?"

She nodded. "It's not anything bad…"

"Are you sure?"

"I think so."

I took the handkerchief out of my tux pocket and began to gently wipe her face clean. "Are you hurt?"

"No, Edward. I'm not hurt." She smiled sadly. "Don't worry about me. I'll tell you soon. I promise."

I nodded and put the thoughts out of my head. She would tell me soon.

Bella seemed to pick up in spirits pretty quickly and started talking to Jane for the rest of the way to the restaurant, which was conveniently across the street from the Chicago Opera House.

Thankfully, the opera was one recreational activity I could stand. I liked the music, of course, but it was more than that. I could lose myself in a good opera, especially a classic such as Don Giovanni.

All throughout dinner, I kept a close eye on Bella, but she seemed to be better. I decided not to neurotically search for answers. As long as she wasn't in trouble or hurt I could handle anything else.

The restaurant was filled with nicely dressed people on their way to the opera, and everyone was trying their hardest to outdo each other. This was a social event that brought out the best of Chicago. I didn't know if Bella realized it yet, but everyone was looking at us. This was our "coming out", I guessed you could say. I didn't tell her that everyone would want to speak to us or shake our hands. Almost overnight, I had become the unofficial mayor of this city when Carlisle left.

Even at dinner, while we ate, people would come over and say, "We don't want to interrupt your meal…" and then proceed to do so anyway with their fake smiles. Old men would try to get past their prejudices about how some young whippersnapper had more money than them, and high-society ladies would look Bella as if she was a piece of meat. No doubt, we would be the subject of gossip at tomorrow's luncheons, business meetings, and tea parties.

Although the opera was a great place to be for a relaxing evening, I was here for work. The Mangicavallos were going to be there, and I was more than excited to meet them. By now, they knew that I had taken over the Cullens, and they sent me a clear message by not giving me the customary congratulations. It was tradition. They were to reach out to me. I was higher up on the food chain and now, I was slightly pissed.

There was a certain order to the way introductions were supposed to be made. They had clearly gone against ritual, basically telling the Cullens and me to fuck off.

"What are you thinking about?" Bella asked me, threading her fingers through mine as we sat waiting for Alec to finish his second piece of cake.

"Nothing. I'm just trying to figure out if I should even be going to this thing tonight."

"I thought you said it was important. Isn't some special family supposed to be there or something?"

"They obviously have issues with me already by not at least calling my house and wishing me well. I wouldn't want to kill someone in public." I had already mentioned to her my qualms about the family.

"You need to calm down." She shook her head. "Maybe they forgot…"

"Bella, everything is done with a purpose. They were sending me a message."

"Please don't do anything rash." Her hand went around my back to feel the gun I had strapped across my chest. "Keep that secured throughout the night."

"I need to know what I'm up against."

"At least Alec will be there to keep you in line. I really don't want this to turn into anything bad."

"It won't. I can assure you of that. They won't want to be embarrassed," I thought out loud. "Just make sure to stay with me."

Bella nodded. "I hope you know what you're doing."

You and me both.

Alec was finally finished a couple minutes later, so we all walked across the street to the packed theater. There was a red carpet type thing and, everyone was expected to pose for the fucking cameras. I refused, pulling Bella towards the side entrance, and then up the large steps of the building.

On our way to our seats, we were stopped multiple times by anyone who vaguely recognized me. I knew everyone and put on a smile, but tried not to show my discomfort with shaking so many people's hands. I didn't see the Mangicavallos by the time the bell dinged, signaling the start of the show.

I guided Bella, with my hand on her lower back, towards the bar.

"Do you want something to drink?" I asked her.

"Um, apple juice." She bit her lip.

"No champagne?"

"Not tonight."

"One apple juice and a Bloody Mary," I told the bartender.

"You're hitting alcohol hard tonight." Bella wrapped her arms around me.

"I already have a headache." I pinched the bridge of my nose.

"Just take deep breaths. You haven't even seen them yet. Maybe they'll be sociable."

"Maybe."

Bella was about to say something else, but was cut off by the most annoying voice on the planet.

"Edward Cullen… and he brought his whore." The sound was like nails on a chalkboard.

I turned around to see Vienna Volturi's snooty face. She was in a short, hot pink dress that was completely inappropriate for a night like this.

"I heard you guys were back. Who would have thought that-"

I cut her off, "Please, not tonight. I don't have time to deal with any bullshit you're trying to spew."

"Now, Edward. That's no way to talk to me. We have history," she slurred. She was probably strung out on something; cocaine, meth, prescription shit. Who knew?

"Ancient history," Bella said under her breath. Her voice grew louder so that Vienna could hear her. "If you haven't heard, he's married."

"Oh, I heard. I don't believe it for one second, but I heard." Vienna sauntered up to the bar, ordering a drink.

I was clutching my hands into fists.

"I still can't believe that you actually married her, Edward." She cackled.

"Let's just go." Bella started to pull me away from the bar. "Don't let her get to you."

I spoke lowly and threateningly. "You need to have a little more respect for your superiors."

"Just because you're the big Boss now, you think you can speak to me that way?" Vienna slinked towards me. I could feel her breath over my skin.

"I can talk to you any way I please." She swung her arm, trying to slap me, but I caught it and twisted. She yelped in pain. I saw the track marks over her skin and figured the meth was starting to wear off causing her irritation.

I released her, and she stumbled backwards.

"Edward, let's go. The opera's about to start." Bella stood in between us. By this time, there wasn't anybody left in the lobby. Everyone had already found their seats.

"You're pretty bold for a girl who slept her way to the top," Vienna said to her.

"What the hell does that mean?" Bella spun around so quickly, I thought her head was about to pop off.

"We all know what you're doing here. You obviously trapped him into this shit." She looked like she was about to cry. "Edward isn't a man who changes and certainly not for some town-and-country, lockjaw, bitch…"

My hand snapped towards Vienna's neck, silencing her words. I clutched at her throat, squeezing the life out of her vile body.

Her eyes bulged immediately, and she thrashed her arms around. I just squeezed harder. I couldn't take her voice and didn't want to hear another sound from her mouth.

I never guessed I would be choking the girl who gave me regular blowjobs in high school. I had always hated her, but she had never crossed the line.

The bartender gaped at us.

"Aren't you going to stop me?" I asked Bella and realized that my voice was indistinguishably low with rage.

She didn't answer.

Vienna's throat felt like a twig that I could snap at any moment. I would have loved to see her lifeless body on the floor. I pushed my thumb into the pulse point of her skin and tried to pop it with pressure.

"How dare you speak to my wife like that," I rasped. "You must have forgotten who I am and what I can do to you."

She tried to speak, but couldn't.

"You might not have heard, but I recently took over for the Cullens, making me the most powerful man in this city. You will treat my wife with respect. Do I make myself clear?"

Vienna had surpassed blue. She was now purple.

"Okay, Edward. I think that's enough." Bella ran her hand over my spine in an effort to calm me down. For the first time, it didn't work. I just felt angrier.

I gripped harder.

"Edward, that's quite enough," a cold voice said from behind me. I recognized it immediately.

I dropped Veinna to the floor, and she crumbled on the carpet, a heaping mess of sobs, gasping breaths, and flailing limbs.

Aro made is way over to us, but made no effort to help his niece.

I moved Bella behind me. Aro and I glared at each other, neither making an effort to speak nor back down. He looked so much older and sickly. The bones of his face were clearly visible through his taught skin. I was sure I could crush him just as easily as I crushed Vienna.

I always wondered how I would react when I saw him again. I had so much I wanted to say, but was it worth it? He obviously had no zeal left in him. Aro had fallen hard and fast in the short four years since my departure from Chicago.

His façade fell first. "It's nice to see you again, Edward."

"You as well, Aro."

"And I see you've brought you're lovely wife."

Bella didn't speak, because she could feel my silent plea for her to stay quiet.

Vienna was clutching at her throat between us, clearly in need of medical attention, but she could die for all I cared. My handprints were on her neck and started turning a deep red color.

"I'm surprised to see you here." He placed his hands in front of him.

"I have every right to be out in public."

"I thought you might be ashamed to show your face in this city."

"I'm never ashamed of anything I do."

"Have you prayed to your God for mercy, Edward? I surely hope so." Aro squinted at me.

"What I pray for is private, but if you must know, I'm perfectly fine with my spirituality. We're all going to hell anyway, so why not go out with a bang?"

"You have a rare second chance, Edward. Don't screw this up because there are a lot of people just waiting for you to disappear again."

"You may not have heard, but I was recently attacked," I said nonchalantly. "My home was invaded."

"Of course I heard. I put in the call." He shrugged. "Did you really think you could stay on that island forever without me knowing?"

Bella gasped slightly from behind me, but otherwise kept silent. My fist clenched. I figured it was him. Who else would want me dead that much? Well, there were a lot of people, but he was at the top of my list.

"How are your sons?" I asked. I meant to hit him hard and where it hurt. I could clearly see that he wasn't anything like the man he used to be. Aro's eyes almost watered, but he shook it off quickly and stood up straight. "My sons, unfortunately, passed away."

"Any leads?" I struck again, taunting him with my superior stature.

"No. The police couldn't find anything." He gulped. "But I have my suspicions."

"Of course you do." I couldn't stop the grin on my face. "I also had a little run in with death. We all know that was your doing, though."

"Don't test me, Edward. I'm in no mood tonight," he said through clenched teeth.

I held a calculating stare as I realized the situation we were in. "Aren't you supposed to bow to me?" I asked him.

"And why would I do that?" He smirked. "Some of us choose not to follow the rules of your precious… Cosa Nostra."

"Well, of course, and I wouldn't expect you to. But when you're in the company Il Re, you bow."

"I would prefer to keep my dignity."

"Bow to me," I growled, not being able to control my anger. His sons were dead, his empire was gone, and his niece was currently pleading on the ground for assistance. I wanted him even more humiliated.

He knew I couldn't be denied.

Like Aro's body was trained, he bowed at the waist and kept his head down. I let him stay that way for a long while. He seemed so frail and started to vibrate from tiredness after a couple of minutes.

"May I rise?" he asked me in a strained voice.

"Yes," I replied.

His old body creaked back into position, and he pulled Vienna up with him. She was sobbing and shaking in panic.

"We need to sit down and talk later in the week," I said.

"Yes, I think we do. Since your father has left, it's obvious that a new Cullen has taken over. Without warning, I might add."

"Have a nice night, Aro." I pulled out a hundred-dollar bill and placed it on the counter in front of the bartender. "You saw nothing." He nodded quickly.

I put my hand behind my back and Bella took it. I pulled her out of the lobby and up the stairs to where our seats were located.

I stopped on the second landing when Bella pushed me up against the wall.

"Are you alright?" she asked, wrapping her arms around me.

"I'm fine. She had no right to speak to you that way."

Bella nodded, but didn't speak.

"I never meant for you to see me that way." I held her face in my hands. "I didn't mean to scare you."

She chuckled, "Edward, I've seen you kill people, remember? Choking some girl in the lobby of a theater is hardly the worst of it."

"I love you so fucking much right now." I took her lips in mine and tried to pour all of my thanks into kisses.

We were unfortunately, interrupted by an usher. "Excuse me, do you need help finding your seats?"

"No, we're fine, but thank you."

And just like that, we were normal again; no trace of the past couple of minutes anywhere.

The Cullens had held a private box at the Chicago Opera House since sometime in the sixties. Nicola was a big supporter of the opera, so he was always here. It was almost a family tradition to sit in our seats and watch a play with the family.

There was a thick, beautifully draped, red curtain that I pulled back, revealing four seats in the box, two of which were already occupied by Jane and Alec.

Bella sat down and looked over the side. "Wow. I've never been to an opera before."

"It's quite enjoyable, actually."

"Where the hell have you two been?" Alec snapped. "I almost came looking for you."

"We had a little business to take care of." I cracked my knuckles, in an effort to relieve tension from my tight hands that had just been wrapped around Vienna's throat.

Alec eyed me suspiciously. I held up my hand to silently tell him, we'll talk later.

I tried to watch the story of the play unfold on stage, but that didn't really work. I was too focused on calming my anger down.

Who the hell did Vienna think she was? I hadn't seen or heard from her in four years, for which I was thankful, but the first thing she did was attack my wife. I wouldn't stand for that. Maybe I took it a little far, but I stood by my decision to choke the hell out of her. Then, there was the fact that Aro had now shown himself, and instead of throwing me an olive branch, he fucking threw a grenade.

No matter. I didn't plan on having him stay alive for too much longer.

I sat comfortably in my seat for the entire first half of the opera, although my nerves were too fired up. Bella seemed to be enjoying her time, though, and that was what I cared about. I didn't mean to ruin her night with what happened downstairs, but she seemed to be taking everything in stride.

I was very worried that my new life as this insanely authoritative mob boss might be too much for Bella. I sometimes didn't feel like she needed to be around me, but that couldn't be avoided. Bella made it perfectly clear that she wasn't going anywhere. I needed to have more faith in her.

I always thought of Bella as a fragile, porcelain doll, and it was my turn to protect her. I sometimes forgot that she could be this bad ass chick who could cut someone's balls off with that trusty pocketknife she had. She wouldn't break at the first sign of trouble.

That thought made me incredibly happy for some reason, and I took Bella's hand.

I closed my eyes and just lost myself in the music of the opera.

I must've been tired and fell asleep, because Bella was shaking me awake sometime later during intermission.

"Edward, you're starting to snore."

I sat up in my seat. "Shit. Did I miss anything?" I blinked rapidly.

"No." She laughed quietly. "I let you sleep."

"I didn't mean to."

"Well, you looked exhausted and after that show downstairs, I figured you should rest. Unfortunately, I have to pee really badly." Bella's face scrunched up.

I nodded. "Oh, ok. Jane will go with you."

"I don't need a chaperone," she argued.

"Oh, yes, you do," I challenged. "There are some… questionable people around here."

"Alright, fine. Just let me go." She took her hand from mine, and then yanked Jane out of the booth.

Alec scooted over, taking the seat next to me. "So what the hell happened?"

"Aro was in the lobby with Vienna."

"What?" he shouted.

The people in the booth next to us leaned over and shushed him. I flicked them off.

"Yeah, and she was really nasty towards Bella."

"What did you do?"

"I choked her."

"Wonderful. Jasper and I will be making apologetic phone calls all week." He rubbed his brow. "Did you kill her?"

"I didn't have the chance. Aro came over. We had a few words."

"Did you have a mediator?" Alec asked.

"No. He thought it was appropriate to just start talking. Apparently, he's not taking my new position within the crime world seriously. That pisses me off. Make a mental note to address that issue next time I see him." I paused. "And he was the one who put in that call to have us killed."

"He did what?" Alec shouted once again and just like before, was shushed.

"He was the one. I knew it must have been him."

"And you still didn't shoot him?"

"I'll have to talk to everyone about it, but I plan on killing the bastard. He's a non-factor in my mind."

"Non-factor?"

"Yes, as in, he doesn't matter. No one in this world will miss him or even care that he's gone."

"Well, that's one way to think about it. Just let me know when and I'll pull the trigger."

"I know you will, kid." I patted his back, "Oh, and I forgot to tell you, I'm kicking your ass for buying that fucking snake without telling me."

"But you said…"

"I said, we could talk about it."

"I'm going to feed him every day and keep in the garage…"

"He stays outside in the yard."

"What? No, he likes it in the garage."

"I won't have that thing near my cars. It goes in the far corner of the backyard and if it escapes, I'm shooting it." I warned.

"I thought you liked snakes." He crossed his arms.

"I like to look, but if it comes into my house, that's another story, altogether. Understood?"

"Yes, sir."

Bella and Jane had returned by then. Alec went back to his seat. Even though she wouldn't tell me, I knew something was up with her. I could read Bella like a book, one that I had memorized and studied for years.

"Are you sure you're alright?" I leaned over and whispered to her.

"I thought you weren't going to ask me that again." She avoided my question.

"Are… are you cheating on me or something?"

Bella looked at me with a blank stare at first, and then snorted in laughter. "That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard."

"It's a viable question." I had yet to see what was so funny.

"Edward, I would never cheat on you. One, because I'm pretty sure you would kill us both and two, because no man… ever could match up to you." She poured it on thick, and I accepted her flattery.

"Well… good," I said.

Bella leaned over and kissed my neck lightly. "You're cute when you're jealous."

"I'm dangerous when I'm jealous," I warned her.

"Oh, I know. Trust me."

The opera started again after intermission, and I kind of just zoned out. Don Giovanni wasn't captivating me like it used to. I had too much going through my brain.

"Edward, give me those binoculars." Bella nudged me. "I want to see something."

I pulled them out of my jacket pocket and handed them to her.

She leaned over and looked down into the crowd. "Look, there's Victor and Victoria."

"Who the hell are they?"

"From Carrie's dinner party."

"What the hell are they doing here?" I took the binoculars and looked around, spotting them on the mezzanine.

"Enjoying the opera like we are."

"Please. They can't afford it," I chuckled. "They have tons of debt and I can't prove it but I'm pretty sure he's selling guns out of his basement, which is illegal, by the way. I'm supposed to be the only criminal on our block. I should report his ass."

"Did you do a background and credit check on them?"

"Of course I did. I could be Victor with all the information I know about him."

I shifted my gaze to see if there was anyone else I knew.

I spotted them without even trying, almost as if my eyes were trained to seek them out. The whole family was sitting proudly, with greasy hair and fake tanned skin.

In their booth directly across from us, the Mangicavalleos were pretending to care about the opera.

"What are you looking at?" Bella asked me.

"Nothing." I handed her back the binoculars.

For the rest of the show, I kept my eyes glaring across the theater. Not once did any of them move their heads, but I could tell that they knew I was watching. They were just as intrigued with me as I was with them.

I came to a conclusion. Given the circumstances of the night—me choking Vienna and meeting Aro again—I decided that this might not be the right time to meet with this other Italian family. I needed to be somewhere private, somewhere I could get violent if need be. Now wasn't the time for that.

As the lights went up in the theater and the applause filled the room after the opera, I quickly took Bella's hand, taking her out of the booth.

"Where are we going?" she asked.

"Home."

"Home? But I thought you had some business to do tonight. Wasn't that the whole purpose of being here?"

"Do you really think my mind is calm enough to deal with anyone else tonight?"

Bella thought for a second before nodding in understanding, "True. I think we should get going."

Jane and Alec were right behind us, and we were able to leave the opera house without fanfare.

"I think we should have a dinner," Alec proposed as we drove through the streets. "That way, we can be civilized."

"I would prefer to keep the women out of this." I grunted at the thought of Bella anywhere near that slimy family, but I guessed it couldn't be avoided.

"She'll have to meet them sometime; we all will." Alec shrugged. "At least at dinner, we can pretend to be nice. It can be casual and take the pressure off."

"You're so smart." Jane kissed his cheek. "I'm so glad you came back."

He grinned goofily and blushed a thousand shades darker than anything I had ever seen; although, I doubt Jane saw it since it was so dark.

Bella's head rested on my shoulder, and she had fallen asleep almost as soon as we started driving. I let her relax and decided to just go back home. I didn't find it necessary to stay in the city like we had originally planned.

"Jane, where do you want us to drop you off?" I asked her.

"Oh, um, well, I thought I would just stay with Alec tonight," she replied like a question, playing with her hands.

Alec's eyes silently pleaded with me to allow it.

"I don't think that would be appropriate," I said.

"But it wouldn't make much sense to take her all the way to the other side of the city and she already has a bag and I can drop her off later…" His speech started to slur in its quickness.

"Okay, okay." I held my hands up,."You can stay in one of the guest rooms."

They must have lost both their minds if they thought I was going to let them stay in the same room. It would be completely irresponsible of me. They were way too young to even be dealing with a physical relationship right now. I don't care how old they thought they were; I knew what was best. Thirdly, it was my fucking house and I wasn't having that kind of fornication under my roof.

Maybe I needed to have "the talk" with that boy. I'd put it on my to-do list. I sometimes forgot that he was almost an adult. I guess it was time for him to grow up. It had all just happened so fast, though.

Alec and Jane seemed happy with the guest room arrangement.

We pulled into the large driveway of the house, and the driver came to open the door. I got out and gently lifted Bella out of the car. Alec unlocked the six locks of our door and punched in the security code before it swung open.

As soon as I stepped into the house, that fucking dog was at my ankles, barking and yipping at me.

"Shut up," I snapped at him. "Get away from me."

"You're really cruel." Alec lifted Francis up. "He's just a baby."

"He's a menace and I almost stepped on his head just now." I started carrying Bella up the stairs. She seemed to be extremely exhausted and didn't even stir.

I laid her gently in our bed.

"Bella, I'm going to take your dress off, okay?" I whispered.

She rolled over, mumbling.

I chuckled and started to undo the zipper. I slid the dress off of Bella, inch by inch so that she didn't wake up. I also took off her bra since I figured that wouldn't be comfortable to sleep in. I then slipped one of my shirts over her head, and she unenthusiastically fixed it before settling deeper into bed.

"That was hard work," I sighed, starting to undress myself.

I felt dirty from tonight, so I spent my allotted twenty-seven minutes in the shower before drying off and dragging myself to bed, naked.

It didn't take me long to smell the foul stench of dog, and I ripped the covers back to see Francis curled up to Bella's side.

"Absolutely not. Get out!" I whisper-yelled.

The little shit defied me and wiggled his way deeper into Bella's arms. She clutched him like a pillow, and I knew there was little to no chance of me yanking him free.

I growled under my breath and settled into bed, on the farthest edge away from the two of them. It took me longer than usual, but I was finally able to fall asleep.

The next morning was Saturday, so I didn't have to be at work. I usually would go into the office and get something done, but I was sure Bella would like for me to stay home.

You can at least take the weekends off.

But my internal clock never shut down, so I was awake at five-thirty. I put on some boxers and a robe after thoroughly completing my morning routine as I always did.

I would have to wait a couple of hours before breakfast arrived, so I put on the coffee to help with the wait.

I unlocked the door and stood on my front porch, taking deep breaths of the chilly morning air. The sun had just barely come up and early morning joggers were out for a run. Some of them even waved at me.

Francis trotted up next to me and stretched his muscles.

"Go pee." I pointed to the front yard.

Even though I didn't particularly like the dog, I had to admit that he was incredibly well trained. Whoever owned him before must have been incredibly strict. Francis slugged down the steps until his fat legs found the perfect spot in the grass to do his business. While he was busy, I began walking to the end of the driveway to get the paper. The delivery boy usually dropped it off with breakfast, but I figured I could get it before him.

Suspiciously, it was missing this morning. I knew the paperboy had delivered it, because I heard his fucking bike at five this morning.

I looked around and noticed my small, elderly, Indian neighbor snooping around in the bushes. He was almost eighty and had to be the nosiest guy I had ever met.

"Mr. Zamir," I shouted. He didn't hear me. "Mr. Zamir!"

He shot into the standing position and resembled a deer in headlights. "What? What?"

"What are you doing?"

"Nothing." He shook his head. "I was… uh… walking my dog."

I looked around. "What dog?"

"Oh, no. Where did he go?" He started to call for his fabricated canine in his thick Indian accent. "Here doggy, doggy, doggy."

By this time, Francis was sitting at my feet. I thought I saw him shake his head in shame at Mr. Zamir's antics.

"You were spying on me through my bushes and my paper is under your arm."

"I would never do something like that," he assured me. "It's wrong."

"I'm glad you know that. Can I have it back?" I held my hand out.

"This is mine."

"You're lying."

"I am not," he insisted.

We stared each other down for a couple of seconds before he starting backing into his house. He shut the door quietly, my paper still in his possession.

"I'm going to have to call someone about him," I said to myself.

"Yeah, he's been stealing papers for years," I heard someone say from behind me.

Victoria was jogging from behind me in skimpy workout clothes with her bright red hair stuffed into a ponytail.

"The neighborhood association has been trying to deal with it, but he's just so cute, right?" She giggled.

"No, he's not cute. He's taking my paper."

"Well, we just let him do it." She continued to jog. "How have you been? I haven't seen you since Carrie's dinner."

"I've been good." I started to make my way back up the driveway. She followed. To my surprise, Francis didn't like that at all and started to lowly growl, showing off his teeth I didn't want to encourage conversation, so I didn't mention anything about seeing her and Victor at the opera last night..

"Oh, what a cute dog." She leaned down, extending her hand and it almost got bitten off at the wrist when Francis snapped his jaws.

"Bad dog." I couldn't help the chuckle that came from my throat.

"Wow. He's surely a fighter." She twisted her lips in annoyance. "Have you thought about that proposal I offered you?"

"And what was that?"

"About us… hooking up." Victoria grinned like it was the most normal thing in the world for us to be talking about. "I'm sure Bella doesn't fulfill all your needs."

"I think you need to get away from me." I clenched my fist. "I don't take lightly to people making insinuations about our relationship."

"Just saying." She smiled. "Okay, well, I guess I'll see you later."

Victoria started to jog down the street to her house. Francis chased after her until he reached the edge of the yard, barking at her heels, but never actually biting her. She didn't look scared in the slightest.

When she was gone, he sauntered back over to me with a superior gait.

"You might not be half bad." I nodded.

I took a deep breath and steadied myself before picking him up.

So far, so good.

He didn't move, but let me pet him. "Okay, then. I guess you can stay a little while longer."


Not what you expected, I know. That was done on purpose. No baby talk here for a reason. Don't kill me, don't send me threatening shit, don't curse me out. The story has a flow. Just go with it.

It's so frustrating, isn't it? Urg. Just tell him! Ha. It won't be that easy. Sorry. Why no baby talk? Because it just makes more sense to me that way. Edward is just having a normal day in his life all the while, his wife is pregnant. I just find it funny. All will be revealed...next chapter.

Anyway, thanks to JennyB for the beta work. Always a much needed help when it comes to me. And thanks to everyone who's reading and reviewing. I'm truly astounded at how many people are enjoying. It makes me feel good.

P.S.-I update weekly. Not sure which day, but every week, you will get an update. I promise. I'm not sick and I havent forgotten about the story. It just takes time to develop the chapters.