"Edward," my father whispered, placing his hand on my shoulder and shaking me. "Edward, son, wake up."
I groaned, shrugged his touch off, and rolled onto my side, reaching for Bella. However, my hand came up empty. Snapping my eyes open, I searched my room for Bella, but she wasn't there. Just me and my father, which was awkward considering I was just in my boxers.
"She's with your Mom and Esme," Ed said, answering my unspoken questions. "Wedding plans."
"Oh," I replied. "So, why are you in my room?"
Ed laughed. "Well, besides the fact that it's already noon," he teased. "I want to go for a run, and thought you might want to go with me."
"A run?" I scoffed. "You?"
"I do run, you know," he muttered, standing up. "If you're afraid of keeping up with your old man, then by all means, stay here and sleep. I won't tell anyone that you're scared."
"Oh, you're so going to pay for that," I laughed. "Fine, we'll go running together, but when you can't walk Esme down the aisle because you're too sore, I'm going to laugh in your face, old man."
"Such little respect," he grumbled as he turned and walked out of my room. "Two minutes, boy."
"Yes, sir," I quipped.
Ed closed the door behind him and I sighed, rubbing my eyes with the palm of my hands, followed by a wince due to my broken nose. Somehow, running didn't sound like that much fun anymore.
Five minutes later, however, Ed and I were running along the streets of Forks. He'd made a big show of pacing in the living room and sighing as I walked out of my room. I ignored him, knowing he was just putting on a demonstration. My father was in great shape, but I was in better condition, thanks to Bella. She always pushed me to train harder, to work my body faster, and because of that, I knew I'd be able to outlast my father.
We stretched for a couple minutes before I led him along one of mine and Bella's favorite paths. The air was cold and breathing it in made my lungs hurt. A light frost had covered the ground the night before, creating another reminder that I wasn't in California anymore. While the heat and sun had taken a lot to get used to, I hadn't missed the cold.
As we reached the far end of town, Ed grabbed my arm and pulled me toward a small path that led into the woods. Bella had shown me a few of her favorites, but I'd never been on this one. The terrain was rough, the foliage overgrown, which made it difficult to watch where I was stepping, but I trusted my father. He'd never led me down a dangerous path.
We pushed through some overgrown trees and stopped. Ed had led me to the river, but unlike the other spots that I'd seen, this was had a small waterfall that dropped about five feet. There was moss growing on everything, almost making the rocks and trees glow.
"Your mother found this place on one her walks," he told me, panting as he struggled to catch his breath. "It was right after you and Bella graduated and she was really struggling with the idea of you going to school at UCLA. You know how she is, so sentimental."
I nodded. "She is."
"Anyway, she insisted that I come with her here, so I did, because I'd go anywhere that woman asked me to go." He laughed and shook his head. "At first, I thought maybe she'd had enough of me and had planned to end my life. You know, claiming I'd fallen in and drown, but then I saw this place and I knew why she'd brought me here."
"Why?" I asked.
"Because it reminded her of you," he said, smiling. "She's missed you. So much. I don't know how many times, I had to stop her from flying to California over the last few months."
"I've missed her, too," I admitted. "And you."
"I'm only going to ask you this once, Edward, but how are you really doing?"
I sighed and walked over and sat on a fallen log. "I don't know. Sometimes I think I'm doing great, you know? But then assholes like that guy in my match blindside me, and I start to wonder if we made the right decision by going to UCLA."
"That's understandable," he said, sitting down next to me. "You've been through a lot over the last year, between moving and the island. I'll admit it was hard to let you go, but do you know why I did?"
I shook my head and looked at him.
"Because you're stronger than you think you are. You've never been one of those kids who shies away from a fight, Edward, but you've never been one of those kids who went looking for one, either. Maybe that's my fault because I moved you around too much; never let you get settled in one place. I don't know. What I do know, though, is that you're good man. You make me proud."
"I do?" I asked, trying to keep my voice from faltering. No matter how old I got, hearing that my father was proud of me meant the world.
"Yes, son," he laughed, standing up. "Now, let's see if you can really beat me. First one home gets the shower first."
And before I could take as much as a step, my father pushed me backward and took off running. I laughed as I followed. No matter how hard he ran, I'd always be faster. After only a few blocks, I ran past, earning several four letter nicknames.
When I reached the apartment, I raced up the stairs and burst my way inside, just to slide to a stop when I saw Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper sitting there. They lifted their eyes to mine and stood up. While I wanted to believe more than anything that they wouldn't hit me again, I braced myself for whatever they might through at me. Bella was worth taking it all.
"You little cheater," Ed muttered as he followed me inside. He stopped beside me, shifting his eyes to Bella's brothers before turning to me. "What's going on?"
"Nothing," I muttered. "I'm gonna take a shower."
"Edward," Ed called out, but I shook my head and walked into my bedroom.
I hadn't told Ed or Elizabeth about the confrontation between me and them, knowing that my mother would whip all their asses if I had. And it would appear that Esme hadn't told them, either. Probably for the same reason. Like said, I wanted to believe that they wouldn't jump me again, but if I've learned anything over the last year, it was that even when they say we have their blessing, we really don't. In their eyes, I'd never be the man their sister deserved, and in a way they were right. Bella deserved perfection, and I wasn't perfect, but she loved me and I loved her, and I wasn't leaving her. Not ever.
Stripping off my clothes, I walked into the bathroom and turned on the shower. While I waited for the water to warm, I stretched my muscles, trying to keep them from cramping up due to the cold outside. After a couple of minutes, I stepped into the shower, sighing as the sizzling water beat down on my muscles, soothing away the ache that was always there after a good, hard run.
By the time I walked back into my room, my body felt much more relaxed. I grabbed a pair of jeans, my 'Who' T-shirt. Once I had my socks and boots on, I walked back into the living room, unsurprised when I saw Carlisle, Jasper, and Emmett still there. Of course they were, because Carlisle practically lived here. Why wouldn't they be here?
"Where's my dad?" I asked.
"He's using the other shower," Carlisle said.
I nodded and walked into the kitchen. Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, I twisted the top off and took a big gulp. However, when I turned around, I saw Emmett and Jasper standing in the doorway.
"Your nose looks like shit," Emmett said, titling his head toward me.
"I know," I replied. "Tends to happen when people sucker punch me."
He frowned, dropping his eyes to the ground. "Heard about that."
"Are you okay?" Jasper asked. "Nothing permanently damaged?"
"Just fine," I quipped, looking him straight in the eye. "Nothing I can't handle."
He nodded. "Look, Edward . . ." Jasper trailed off, shaking his head. "We're sorry about what happened at Thanksgiving."
"What happened at Thanksgiving?" Ed asked, causing Emmett and Jasper to tense up. They turned and looked at my father. "Well?"
"Nothing, Dad," I lied. "So, what's the plan for today?"
"Clearly it wasn't nothing," he said, ignoring my lame attempt at changing the subject. "What happened at Thanksgiving?"
"Nothing," I lied again. "Look, it's not a big deal, so just drop it."
"I'll decide what is or isn't a big deal, Edward," he replied, his tone making it clear that he didn't intend on letting it go.
Sighing, I shook my head. Emmett and Jasper looked terrified, and while I didn't hate it, I didn't want my father to hurt them, either. All that would accomplish was hurt Bella and make her feel even guiltier for her brothers' attack on me.
"Well, someone had better get to talking," Ed ordered.
"We, um, we kind of . . ." Emmett's words hung in the air.
"We walked in on him and Bella," Jasper said, cringing. "And we lost our cool. When they came out, I, um, held Bella back, while . . ."
"While I hit him," Emmett whispered.
Ed inhaled a sharp breath. His hand clenched several times, and I found myself afraid that he'd hurt them. He brought his fist up, pointing a rigid finger at Emmett as he took a step forward, backing the man up against the wall. "You and Me. Ring. Now."
"Dad," I started, but quickly pressed my lips together when he turned his glare toward me. I knew better than to argue with him when he was that man. My father wasn't a violent man, not on normal occasions.
"Ed, I'm sorry," Emmett said, his feeble exclamation falling on deaf ears.
"Not yet, you aren't," Ed growled, pressing the tip of his finger into Emmett's chest. "Get your ass out of this apartment, over to your gym, and into the ring. We'll settle this like men."
Emmett nodded before scrambling away from my father and out of the apartment. Jasper's eyes were the size of bottle caps as he stood there and watched. Ed turned his attention to him. "You can ride with me."
"Yes, sir," he muttered, knowing that he was about to get his ass chewed.
Ed didn't utter another sound as he turned on his heel and stalked out of the apartment. Jasper looked at me before he followed. I should have stopped my father, tried to protect Jasper, but if I was being honest, I wanted to see what my father would do to them. Emmett and Jasper seemed to forget that other people's feelings mattered, and in the long run, you don't mess with my father's son.
"Well, I supposed we should go, too," Carlisle stated, standing up.
"Think he'll hurt them?" Carlisle asked.
"If the situation was reversed, would you hurt my father if he'd done that to your brothers?"
Carlisle sighed. "Probably."
"Then, there you go." I turned to walk out of the apartment, but stopped when Carlisle grabbed my arm. I looked back at him, lifting an eyebrow.
"Look, Edward, I know things between us haven't always been . . . smooth," he said. "But I do care about you. You know, like an annoying little brother who gets under my skin."
"Wow, that almost sounded like a compliment," I snickered.
"I just mean that I think of you as family." He huffed. "I want to hate you, because you were able to save my sister from her demons and I couldn't. I'm her brother; I was supposed to be able to protect Bella. But I couldn't, and you can. It's not always easy knowing that she needs you more than us."
"It's not more," I told him. "It's a different kind of need. Carlisle, I love Bella. She's everything to me. She pushes me to be . . . better. Not just at boxing, either, but at everything. Before I met her, I was angry at everyone: my parents for moving to Italy, my sister for dragging me here, the Army for always making us leave our lives behind. I never felt like I had a home until I met her. When I first saw Bella, everyone told me that she was trouble, that she was dangerous, but I didn't see that. I saw the girl who was scared, who needed a friend. I didn't intend to fall in love with her, but I did. And I won't — no I can't live without her."
"I believe you," he murmured. "I feel the same way about Esme. She just . . ." Carlisle blew out a breath of air. "I love her, Edward, and I need to know before we step in front of God and everyone that you're okay with us getting married."
"You waited until two days before you're supposed to marry my sister to ask me that?" I laughed. "Dude, what if I said no?"
"You won't." He smiled. "You love your sister too much."
I nodded. "I do, and you're right. I won't tell you that you can't marry my sister. All I want is for Esme to be happy, and you make her happy. As long as she stays happy, you and I won't have a problem."
"Same for my sister, Edward."
I nodded. "Does that mean I have your permission to propose to Bella?"
Carlisle's eyes flew open.
"Not saying I'm going to anytime soon, but when I do, I want to know that I have your full support. Do I?"
He closed his eyes for a moment, and forced the air out of his lungs. "Yeah, you do." He opened his eyes and looked right at me. "Just make it special for her, okay? Bella deserves the best."
"She does," I agreed.
Carlisle and I didn't speak again as we left the apartment and headed to the gym. When we walked inside, we found Ed and Emmett already in the ring. Jasper was standing off to the side with a look of shame on his face and his hands shoved into his pockets. Ed had Emmett pressed up against the ropes, his heavy arms swinging forward and slamming into the poor bastard. I'd never seen my father fight, not like this, and it wasn't a sight I particularly enjoyed, either. Ed had always been the first person to speak of finding a peaceful solution, but I suppose when you mess with the man's family, all bets are off.
"I should stop him," Carlisle muttered. However, instead, he pulled a chair over and sat down.
I leaned against the wall, watching as my father taught Emmett a thing or two about boxing. After almost ten minutes, Ed pushed Emmett away from him and leaned against the ropes. Fumbling, he managed to get his gloves off, followed by his head gear. Taking a deep breath, Ed looked over at Emmett.
"Do we have an understanding?" he asked.
"Yes, sir," Emmett muttered around his mouthpiece.
"Good," Ed replied, smiling before he climbed out of the ring. He walked over to me, placing his hand on my shoulder. "If I ever hear of them taking a cheap shot at you again and you not putting them on their asses, it'll be you in that ring. Fight for her, Edward. Fight for your right to love her."
I nodded. "Yes, sir."
And I would. Because one day, and I didn't know when, I was going to ask Bella to be my wife, and nobody was going to tell me it wasn't okay.
Thank you for all the patience. I know I've been a major fail when it comes to updating this story, or any of my stories, but there hasn't been a day that goes by that I haven't thought about them. The desire to write them was there, but the words weren't. So, instead, I poured all my efforts into my other writing. I finished one book, and managed to add 30K to another. I can't promise consistent updates, as I do have a life. But I am working on them.