13

RUN

Edward

We continued to lay there wrapped in each other's arms for close to an hour. I heard Sam bark and realized I hadn't taken him for our morning run. "Do you feel like coming to the park with me? I usually run every morning with Sam but I was gone most of the week, and seeing how you two have such a special relationship …."

"After what you just did Sam can fuck himself." She jumped out of bed and grabbed her suitcase, rummaging through it to find the clothes she was looking for. "I'll even run with you guys."

I grabbed some running clothes and headed to another bathroom. After cleaning up and getting dressed I went to the couch to put on my shoes. Bella headed down the stairs dressed in a long sleeve dri fit running shirt and some short running shorts. Her hair was pulled up into a pony tail making her look very young. When she noticed my staring she bent over to start stretching her muscles.

"See anything you like, Cullen?"

I actually let out a growl of frustration. "I like it all, Swan. Let's get out of here before poor Sam doesn't get a run today."

I handed her a banana to eat on the way and went out back to get Sam.

We drove to a large state park with a five mile trail. Sam sat obediently in the back seat and Bella laughed repeatedly at how well trained he was. I explained it had been just me and him for so long we had a unique connection. She wondered out loud if in time she would be sitting obediently in the back seat. I assured her it would be me following her around like a lost puppy not the other way around.

I wasn't sure exactly what Bella's conditioning level was. I didn't know if I would have to hold back or struggle to keep up with her. As with everything else we did we were an even match. I ran at my usual pace which seemed right in line with hers.

When we made our way back to the car we were both dripping in sweat. I got two water bottles out of the back and shared mine with Sam. As we stood there cooling down her cell phone rang. She had a small pocket in the sleeve of her shirt to hold her phone. Glancing at the number she smiled. "Hi Jake."

I watched as she listened intently to his end of the conversation. Her brow knitted together and she looked worried. When it was her turn to speak she looked up at the sky like she was trying hard to remember something.

"I have no idea," she said. "I can't even remember anyone named James. What exactly made it seem freaky?"

Now my interest was really piqued. If Jake was worried about some James guy I would be more than worried. I wasn't about to let anything come between the relationship we had been able to build in just one short week.

When she hung up I waited expectantly. "What?" I finally asked when she didn't offer anything.

"Um…Jake got a call from somebody looking for me. He said the guy seemed really freaky and kept pushing for information."

"What kind of information?"

"He wanted to know where I was living, and working and what kind of car I was driving."

I felt bile rise into my throat. "Jake didn't tell him did he?"

"No, he said he was very vague and kept trying to get the guy to answer his questions instead. All he could tell was the guy had a strong southern accent. I must have met him when I lived in Dallas."

"Bella I don't want you to leave my side until we have this figured out." I reached out and took her hand. "I would feel much better if you stayed at my place too. I have the security gate and Sam to protect you."

"Edward," she laughed. "My father is the chief of police, remember?"

"Yeah, but he can't hold you in his arms all night." I pulled her tightly against me. "Let's go home and take a shower and see if I can convince you."

Bella was quiet on the way home and I could tell she was worried. She seemed to relax after we went through the security gate. I was going to insist she stay with me and use the weekend to convince her. "

We took a long shower each cleaning off the other person. I loved washing her hair. It was erotic building the shampoo into lather and rubbing her scalp. I could spend eternity washing her beautiful hair. By the time we were ready and dressed for the day lunch had come and gone. We decided to have an early dinner and spend another evening alone. As we were heading for the door her cell phone rang again. This time it was Rosalie.

"This better be good," she fumed.

Again her face tightened into a stressful stare and she listened intently as Rose spoke. Her eyes turned to mine and she looked scared. I took the phone from her hand.

"Rosalie, can we call you right back on my home phone. I want to put this on speaker."

It only rang once and when Rose answered I could hear Emmett in the background. She had her phone on speaker as well.

"Oh my god, Edward, this guy is such a freak. He showed up on my door step looking for Bella. He really scared me and I am just glad Emmett was home."

"Was his name James?" I asked.

"Yea, and he looks like a psycho, you know Charles Manson like crazy. He has long greasy blond hair. Wild dark eyes and his arms are all cut up. Not like he was in an accident but like he actually cuts his arms all the time."

I looked at Bella and she shook her head to say she didn't recognize anyone like that. "What exactly did he say?"

Emmett interrupted and began giving me details. "He was looking for Bella and didn't believe Rose when she said she didn't live here. He insisted Rose was lying to him and was making her feel threatened. I was in the kitchen with Emma and when I threw the door open wide and pushed Rose aside he got a good look at me, uniform, gun and all. He suddenly became contrite and said he must have the wrong information."

Rose yelled in the background. "Bella, I'm going to call Alice. If he had my address he might have hers, too."

Bella sank onto the couch. Her face was white and I worried she might pass out.

"Emmett, what do you suggest we do?"

"Well, first of all I need to file a report. We need to document the fact this guys is looking for Bella."

"Did you know he called Jake earlier today?" I interrupted.

"No, shit! This looks bad. Let me call Jake and get his information and then I'm taking all of this to Charlie."

Bella's head fell into her hands and she began to cry.

"Rose, I'm not letting Bella come back there until we know more about this. You guys can work out of my house if you need to. I know it is not convenient for you, but I think it is safer for Emma if Bella doesn't come to your house."

"Sure, okay." Rose's voice was shaking. I think the realization of her daughter being in danger finally dawned on her.

I told Emmett we would be staying in tonight and asked him to call me if he got any more information. I was sure Charlie would be calling soon and I wanted to talk to him about keeping Bella at my place. I sat next to her on the couch and pulled her close to me.

We were both deep in thought and when I felt her shaking in my arms I knew I needed to distract her, so I softly asked, "Tell me about your mother."

An entire range of emotions flashed across her face. She finally leaned against my shoulder and said, "I can't tell you about her without telling you awful things about myself."

I lifted her chin to look into her eyes. "Nothing about you can be awful."

"Yes, it can Edward. A year ago I wouldn't think that, but now I see how messed up she was and how messed up it made me."

"Bella, those things make you who you are today and I love everything about you. I loved you last year when you were supposedly messed up. Nothing you say can make me stop loving you. It can only help me understand you."

"I didn't have a normal childhood," she began quietly. "By the age of ten my mother was having my clothes altered to make them sexy and revealing. I was taught how to attract a man by walking a certain way or holding my body a certain way. Men were only to be seen as entertainment or to fulfill physical needs. They were never to be trusted or leaned upon."

She looked at me sadly and tears filled her eyes. "Edward, I lost my virginity at the age of fifteen to my science teacher."

I felt like I had been punched in the gut. I tried not to respond in any way. I had asked her to tell me and now I had to sit and listen when I really wanted to hold her and make it all go away, the memories, the hurt, and the regret, all of it.

"Now I have some crazy guy looking for me and I don't even know who it is because my list of men I have had sex with is too long to remember."

I looked into her eyes and asked the only question that truly mattered to me. "How many of those have you loved?"

"One," she whispered as she reached out and lightly touched my face.

"How did I get so lucky?" I sighed as I leaned in to kiss her lightly.

Bella

He took everything so well. I couldn't believe he could possibly still love me. I felt I needed him to show some of his skeletons. Maybe there were things that tugged at his conscience that didn't make my stuff seem so bad.

"Tell me about your marriage," I asked.

He sat for a minute without responding. I began to think he wasn't going to tell me anything when he finally stood.

"I'm starving, lets heat up the food from last night and I'll talk while we eat."

I realized I had eaten only one banana the entire day and was also very hungry. "Do you have stuff for a banana split?" I asked with a little too much enthusiasm.

Edward laughed and pulled me up while saying, "And there's the girl!" I smacked his arm for using my line.

"Go ahead and get the stuff out of the fridge, I have to fax something really quickly." He turned and ran up the stairs. I pulled out the containers and opened the wine we didn't finish last night. He was back in less than two minutes. We both fixed a plate and nuked them in the microwave. Instead of going to the table I hopped up on the island. He groaned when he saw me sitting there.

"This is one of my favorite places in this house," I teased.

"Mine too," he winked. He stood against the counter across from me holding his plate while he ate.

"Are you ready?" I asked.

He put his egg roll down and started, "Tanya was my first date. I met her when I was sixteen. We broke up the summer before our senior year and I dated a few other girls but nothing serious. We got back together when school started. It was just more comfortable and familiar, not really because of our feelings for each other. She had had sex that summer so our relationship turned physical pretty quickly. We were stupid enough to think if I pulled out in time we wouldn't have to use protection."

"Seriously," I asked stunned. "Do people really think that way?"

"We were young and dumb teenagers," he continued. "She ended up pregnant, of course, so we did what our parents wanted us to do, we got married." He shook his head incredulously. "My parents still paid for my college so I worked part time and went to school full time. We were very poor and I was never home. By the time some of the pressure was off we didn't have much of a marriage left. Then she was diagnosed. I promised her I would never leave her and we tried for a bit to have a real marriage but it didn't last. I started working longer hours and she started turning my son against me. She hated having to depend on me to clean her, or to dress, or eat. When she needed constant care I moved her into a nursing home. Seth moved out that same day."

"I'm so sorry Edward. Did you see other women?"

He looked at me and smiled, "One day I had to get a CD to Jasper with some graphic changes I needed right away. He told me to meet him at a nightclub. I noticed this incredible woman dancing alone. She looked at me and it felt like she was dancing just for me."

My fork stopped in mid air. "She was, you know."

"Yea, I found that out the following weekend when she walked into my office." He looked a little embarrassed by his admission.

This time my fork fell onto the plate and my hand covered my mouth. "You mean that was the first sex you had for like, what? Like years?"

"Well, the first time ever for that particular act."

I actually had to shake my head to clear my thoughts. I had about a million things coming to my mind at the same time.

"Edward," I asked quietly, "Did you have sex with anyone after I left?"

"Nope," he said popping the P at the end.

My eyes were darting back and forth like a crazy person. He finally laughed and said, "I guess I kind of fell in love with the girl that danced for me. I didn't want anybody else. And then she so eloquently reminded me I wasn't really free to be in a relationship."

I sat my plate down next to me. I had never in my life been so ashamed of myself. I wanted to vomit or run away. This perfect man was holding a mirror up and I hated what I was seeing. I never gave one moments thought to what was going on it other peoples lives. The men I picked up were for my selfish use and I just assumed I meant nothing to them, too.

"How can you even stand to look at me," I whispered.

He stayed where he was and looked at me so adoringly it almost broke my heart. "Because I love you so completely," he said in a matter of fact tone.

"I want you to know I have really changed. I'll want only you forever and if I could take any of it back I would." I didn't mean just the things I did to him, but for everything I had done in my past.

"As long as you don't take back the dancing, or the visit to my office, or the life changing conference, or that awful day that only your eyes got me through, or the reality slap that made me see I needed professional help or most of all the meeting with Mr. Marshal."

He actually got me to smile. He didn't regret anything so why should I. Everything that happened led me to this exact spot, so no, I wouldn't regret it. I was about to tell him again how much I loved him when the door bell rang.

I screamed and jumped from the counter into Edward's arms. He quickly hugged me tight saying he was expecting someone and for me not to worry. I couldn't let go of his shirt I had fisted in my hands. He had to peel my fingers off to get free of me.

"Bella, relax love, I know who it is. I am expecting someone. Please don't worry. I'm not going to let anything happen to you." He walked backward toward the door with his hands out trying to reassure me. I followed, but made sure to stay far behind.

He opened the door and a young teenage girl stood there with a grocery bag in her hand. "Here ya go Mr. Cullen. Everything you could possibly want."

He pulled out his wallet and handed the girl what looked like a one hundred dollar bill. She beamed and turned to run off.

"What's going on Edward," I asked cautiously.

He brought the bag over to me and opened it wide so I could see the contents. "Banana splits. I guess my fax was more like a phone call to the neighbor girl."

"You scared the shit out of me for banana splits?"

"No, I fulfilled your every wish by getting banana splits. And if you care to share anymore desires I will make sure to fulfill those, too."

Edward

We made a mess of the kitchen making the biggest banana splits I had ever eaten. We were stuffed and starting to play with our food by sticking our fingers in the bowl and wiping it on the other person. I finally grabbed Bella's wrist before she could wipe chocolate syrup under my nose for a mustache and stuck her finger in my mouth. She stopped trying to pull away when she saw I was sucking on her finger and not about to let go. She leaned in and put her second finger in her own mouth and started sucking on it along with me. This woman was going to be the death of me. I instantly got hard and right at that moment her cell phone rang.

She froze. I backed off her finger and picked up her phone. It was Charlie so I answered. "Hello, Charlie. I assume you have talked with Emmett."

"Edward, how's Bella holding up".

"Good, would you like to speak with her?" I handed the phone to Bella.

"Hi Dad…Yeah, I'm fine…Maybe this guy just wants to say hello or something. Maybe he is someone I went to school with and he is just looking me up. If I tell him about Edward he may just go away."

After a few minutes she handed the phone back to me. I noticed how her hopeful expression was entirely gone now.

"Edward this is much worse than we originally thought. I didn't tell Bella this and you can do whatever you think best, but this guy is one sick son-of-a-bitch".

"Okay, let's have it."

"There was a box in the mail today addressed to Bella. It wasn't post marked, so he actually put it in our mail box."

"Did you open it? What was it?" It took Charlie a moment to answer and he lowered his voice as if he didn't want someone to hear.

"It was a kitten's decapitated head wrapped in a pair of Bella's underwear."

I instinctually turned my back and lowered my voice, too. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, Sue recognized them as ones she just washed. He's been inside the house."

"Fuck."

It took me a moment to calm down. "Charlie, I'm not letting her come home. I'm not letting her out of my sight."

"I think that's best for now. I also think we need to have Seth stay here for a few days. I don't want the guy following him home. He already knows about Jake so we can only hope he doesn't know about you or Seth. They are going to a concert tonight and I will have police protection for both of them here at the house."

"I'll talk to our neighborhood association and make sure everyone is extra careful about buzzing anyone through the gate. Do you think you'll be able to find him?"

"We have a first name and a description. He has to be staying somewhere around here so we should be able to root him out."

"Okay, keep us up on any developments and Charlie, thank you for trusting me to take care of her."

"It lets me do what I need to do. I just got my baby girl, I'm not about to let some sick piece of…"

His voice broke and he wasn't able to finish. "I know, Charlie, I know."

I shut the phone and turned to look at Bella. She was curled up on the couch, her arms tight around her knees with her head down rocking back and forth. I bent down in front of her and whispered, "Hey."

She looked up and a lump formed in my throat. She looked so scared and so vulnerable. Just a moment ago she was a sexy vixen who had control of my entire being with just a simple look. Now, she was shaking and needed me to make her feel safe.

"Hiding out in this house isn't going to do us any good. Let's get Sam and go for a walk around the neighborhood. Nobody can get in here and we can enjoy some sun before it gets dark."

She nodded and took my hand and stood. I could feel her shaking so I tightened my grip on her hand. She held one of my hands and had her other hand on my arm as we walked slowing. Sam ran around us trying to get our attention. I didn't make him walk on a leash since we were staying in the neighborhood.

"What did my dad tell you?" she finally asked.

"That I get to keep you with me for a while longer." I kissed her head. She nodded but didn't ask anything else.

"Let me show you something. Sam, sit." Sam ran up to me and sat in front of me. "Here." I pointed to Bella's feet and Sam moved in front of her.

"Protect." I walked a few feet away and then turned toward Bella. Sam instantly stood and a low growl formed in his throat. I reached out with my hand and Sam let loose with a ferocious bark. I noticed Bella smile.

"Now tell him firmly, Done, so he doesn't rip me apart."

Bella looked at Sam and gave the command. He went back to his aimless wandering. Her face lit up.

"Wow, how does he do that?"

"I spent a lot of money having him trained. If he is under a protect command all you have to say is attack and whoever takes one step in your direction will be very sorry. I hope it helps you feel a little safer. I'll have him sleep outside our bedroom from now on."

"Our bedroom?" she asked with a raise of her eyebrow.

"You know, you can save me a lot of courting time and money and just move in permanently." I knew that would probably scare her more than some crazed stalker.

"Ask me later, at the right time, and in the right way."

I stopped in my tracks but she just kept walking. She threw her head back in laugher and yelled to Sam, "Better go save your daddy!"

We walked around the neighborhood for over an hour and I noticed how much she relaxed. She was still smiling and teasing by the time we decided to come home.

14

TRADE

Bella

It had been two weeks and not one word from James. No more calls or showing up at people's homes. Dad had put out feelers in Portland and Seattle, but no motels came forward with any information. I made Edward go back to work and felt totally safe with Sam protecting me. Seth came home and seemed really okay with my relationship with his dad. He spent most weekends with Jake but that would end in a couple of days when school started again.

Rose and Alice came to Edward's home a few times to work but we were quickly getting back into the routine of working at our own places. I talked with Charlie and Sue every night and I was really starting to miss them. They met us for dinner twice, but it was so much trouble to make sure they weren't being followed that I felt guilty asking them again.

I told Edward I was going to the office at Rose's house and promised I wouldn't go near my own home just yet. I was convinced James had moved on to another obsession or had been arrested for a different cause. I honestly felt safe again.

It was so good to be back at Rose's. We spent the morning making follow up calls with clients who had not committed and actually closed a couple of deals over the phone. We ate lunch and put Emma down for a nap. We worked for awhile more and then collapsed on the couch gossiping about our men like a couple of fish wives. I was about to leave when Jake called my cell phone.

"Hey, handsome."

"Um….Bella…um…my truck broke down. Can you come get me?" He sounded funny and I thought he felt bad for imposing.

"Sure Jake. It's no problem at all. Where are you?"

"I'm at Judsen Lake. Um…the east route from the park entrance."

"Okay, keep an eye out for me. Do you need me to bring cables or gas or anything?"

"No. And Bella you'll see me., I'm wearing the shirt mom got me for my birthday."

My heart froze and I felt my knees give out.

"Jake," I said shakily, "I gotcha. I'll be right there."

We constantly teased about the neon green shirt Sue bought Jake for his birthday. He said he wouldn't be caught dead in that shirt and would only wear it if his life was in mortal danger.

I turned to Rose and grabbed her arms. "Oh my God. he's got Jake."

She grabbed her phone and I dove at her to snatch it out of her hands. "No Rose, I have to go and make him let Jake go. The police can't get involved until after Jake is free."

"Are you insane," she screamed. "You can't do this. Think of Edward. Let Charlie and Emmett handle this."

"I will let them handle it as soon as I get James to trade Jake for me. Rose, I couldn't go on if Jake gets hurt because of me. I would rather be dead than let that happen."

She stared at me for a moment and then pulled me to a back room. "Here put this on." She threw me a large thick sweatshirt. I didn't know what she was doing but I just threw it on. I rolled the sleeves to my wrists.

She pulled something shiny out of a box and held it up. "Watch very carefully," she instructed. She placed her fingers where the handle curved inward and squeezed. A very sharp knife shot out from the end. She pushed on an indentation on the bottom of the handle and the blade instantly pulled back in. She did it twice to make sure I got it.

Grabbing the sweat shirt she pulled up the bottom band and showed me a small slit on the underside below the two pockets. She pushed the thin knife into the slit. It was completely hidden and you couldn't even feel it when you ran your hands along the band.

Then she handed me a large set of keys with a big key chain. "If he tells you to throw your keys or give them to him you use these. Do you understand? Keep your real keys in the ignition no matter what."

I kept nodding my head numbly trying to focus on what she was saying.

"I'm giving you a fifteen minute head start and then I'm calling Emmett. Just stay alive and he will come save you. Do whatever you have to do to stay alive."

"I love you, Rose," I mumbled and headed out the door.

It was as if time stopped. I got more clarity the closer I got to the lake. As I pulled into the entrance I hit the button to clear my mileage. I decided I wasn't going to do anything until he let Jake go. I would offer myself as a trade. It was me he wanted anyway.

I saw Jake's truck. I glanced at the mileage…3 miles exactly. I passed his truck and turned around facing the car towards the exit and pulled in front of the truck. I turned off the car and pretended to put the keys in my pocket. I was actually checking to see if the other set was still there. I opened the car door and stood taking a look all around me. My phone rang. It was Jake.

"Hey," I said hesitantly.

"It looks like you finally decided to join me," an unfamiliar voice spoke.

"Who is this?" I looked around wildly.

"I can see you."

"Where's Jake?" I demanded.

"He's keeping me company until you get up here."

Up. He said the word Up. I turned to look up the hill on the North side of the road. The trees were too thick for me to see very far.

"Let him go and I will come join you." I tried to sound confident and calm.

"I don't trust you, Bella."

"Okay, let's make a deal. I will throw my keys over the side of the hill and walk up half way. Once I see Jake get in his truck you can come get me."

I have my own plan, but we can play your way, too. Throw your keys and start climbing and I will tell you where to go.

I pulled out the fake keys and threw them as far as I could on the south side of the road. I began climbing and he told me to move to the left. I followed his instructions to a large tree that was lying sideways. He told me to look to the tree right below and put my arms around it and put on the hand cuffs which were lying at the base.

I locked one cuff making sure I put it around the rolled sleeves instead of my wrist. I would have room to pull my hand out when I decided to make a run for it. I refused to put on the other cuff until I saw Jake at the truck.

After several minutes I heard the sound of someone walking. I looked around frantically to see where the noise was coming from. Suddenly I saw Jake, he was limping and his eye was swollen shut, but he was heading to the truck. His head was down as if he was following implicit instructions. I wanted to run to him and tell him how sorry I was, but I couldn't move; couldn't speak. I watched him get in his truck and drive off.

"Now put on the other cuff and keep climbing. If you try to run I will blow your head off. I have you right in my sight."

I felt such a relief to have Jake safe, a calm spread over me. I looked down as I climbed not wanting to make eye contact. When I finally came to a ridge he told me to stop. I felt a hand reach out and grab me by the front of the sweatshirt. I didn't scream or show any reaction at all. I continued to stare at the ground. He walked around me feeling over my shirt and pants. He pulled my phone out of my pocket and snapped it in two pieces then threw it behind him. I felt the end of a gun push into the back of my head as he told me to keep walking. I had been counting my steps. I was twenty-five steps up from the road and fifteen south of my car when he told me to stop. He pushed my head down and I saw a low entrance to what looked like a cave.

I started to climb through when he used his foot to push me as hard forward as possible. My hands instinctively flew in front of me and I crashed hard against a wall. My left wrist felt a sharp pain that I was sure broke something. I hissed in pain but tried not to make too much noise. The cave was completely dark I could only see his shadow blocking the entrance. I tried to feel my way along the wall to get away from him, but he grabbed me by the hair and threw me as hard as he could in the other direction. My head hit something hard and snapped back. I fell to the floor and could feel blood running down my face then everything just stopped.

When I woke up my head was pounding and my wrist was so swollen I didn't think the cuff would come off. I heard James muttering to himself outside the cave. He came back inside and told me to crawl over to him. I didn't move until he told me he had on night vision goggles and could see me very clearly. I scooted to him and he pulled me up by my hair.

We climbed out of the cave and rain was beginning to fall. It wasn't totally dark yet but it was getting close. He told me to climb further up the hill. I noticed he was breathing hard and kept his hand on my sweatshirt not only to keep me from escaping but to help pull him along.

He wasn't in good physical shape. I decided when I ran I would need to run up hill. He would have a hard time keeping up with me. He pulled me to a stop when we reached a large bolder. He pushed my back against the rock and he stood on a small boulder pushing up his body up against me. His head could see over the rock I was against and I was trapped tightly. He pulled the goggles down over his eyes looking over my head and began to snicker. "Perfect. Oh yes, just as I planned."

He finally pulled back and looked down at me. My head was still bleeding and dripping down my face. He leaned in and turned my head to the side, placing his tongue flat against my cheek he licked the blood from my jaw to my forehead. I wanted to vomit, but I held perfectly still keeping my eyes down.

"The water will clean you up," he whispered into my ear, "And make you all pretty before I cut your head off."

My stomach lurched and I bit down hard on my lip so the bile wouldn't make its way out. He was now playing with my hair, licking strands that he put in his mouth. I concentrated on Rose's words, "Stay alive and Emmett will come save you."

After several looks over my head with the night vision goggles he finally started pulling me back down the hill. We passed the cave and continued our downward path. I guessed we were heading to the lake since he talked about water.

When we got to the road he pushed me low into a squatting position. He was looking around frantically. I took the opportunity to release my right hand out of the cuff. I slipped the cuff slightly over the left fingers causing pain to shoot up my arm. I quickly found the knife hidden in the sweatshirt and pulled it into my palm. He pushed me forward and we ran crouched down across the road. The incline heading down this side was very steep and I knew I needed to act now. He was keeping me in front of him the entire time.

I pulled back suddenly and turned my right leg at a weird angle. "I'm stuck on something," I said while bending toward my leg. James let go of my shirt and moved to let the back pack he was wearing fall to the ground. The gun pointed away while he did this.

I pushed the spot Rose had shown me on the knife and plunged the blade into his thigh with all my strength. As he screamed and grabbed for the knife I pushed him forward as hard as I could. He flew down the step incline. I didn't wait to see if he rolled all the way down or stopped just past me. I was running up the hill. Right as I crested onto the flat road I heard a gun shot.

I couldn't see my car, but it was raining hard and I knew we had moved south of its location. I ran as hard as I could. Adrenaline was flowing and the wet dirt was making me slip. It felt like a dream where you can't get traction no matter how hard you pump your legs. I could hear noises all around me. I could feel his breath on my neck and his hand reaching out for me. I didn't look back to see if it was real. I just kept running.

There it was; my car, my escape. I jumped in and hit the automatic lock. My hands were shaking so bad and my left hand couldn't grab anything. I turned the key and hit the gas. The car tires spun for a second and finally grabbing purchase lunged forward. I tuned on my lights and wipers but couldn't see more than a few feet in front of me. Every shadow looked like James coming out of the trees.

It seemed like an eternity before I came around a curve to see the park entrance. My emotions were in full panic mode and I was hyperventilating. Flashing lights were everywhere. I couldn't tell where they started or where they ended, red, blue and yellow blinding me and turning everything into slow motion. I slammed on the breaks, skidding to a stop. I jumped from the car without turning off the engine. I threw my hand up trying to see beyond the blinding lights as I ran forward. I didn't make it far before my legs gave out and I collapsed into a ball on the ground.

I heard heavy steps running toward me and I pulled tighter into a ball. When I felt a hand on me I instinctively screamed and began flailing my good arm in a weak attempt to protect myself. I only became aware of a voice when I was lifted like a rag doll into huge strong arms.

"It's Emmett. I've got you. You're safe."

I still couldn't open my eyes. If it was a dream I didn't want to wake up. Emmett had saved me just like Rose said he would.

Chaos was going on around me and I was trying to shut it all out. I felt someone grab me out of Emmett's arms as I tried to reach out and pull myself back to him.

"Baby girl, my baby girl."

"Dad?" I screamed. I buried myself in his chest and held on with all my strength. I was sobbing uncontrollably now and still couldn't open my eyes. I was okay if life ended now. I was with my dad and nothing James could do would ruin this hallucination.

I felt another body come against my other side and press against me wrapping arms around me and my dad.

"Bella, we've got you," her soft voice assured me. I knew it was Sue but I could only form one word, "Mom."

At that moment a third body wrapped around me. It didn't speak but I could hear soft crying. It took a moment to register but my mind pulled out of the fog and my eyes flew open.

"Jake, are you alright? Did he hurt you? I am so sorry, Jake, I never meant to hurt you." I was babbling like a crazy person.

Suddenly courage bubbled up inside me. I was livid that some piece of scum could try to destroy what meant so much to me. I turned to find Emmett. "He is exactly 3 miles and 25 paces down the east road. I pushed him down over the south side of the road. He has a knife in his leg. I heard only one gun shot, I think. His gun has a clip and he has night vision goggles."

Emmett turned and ran followed by several officers. Charlie called over a paramedic who led Jake and me to a waiting ambulance. "Can we ride together?" Jake asked.

Under the bright lights in the ambulance I could see his injuries better. He had a huge purple bump in his eyebrow that swelled out causing the eye to remain closed. His leg had a huge gash over the knee that would need stitches and his knee was swollen to three times its normal size.

I could see my reflection in the window and it looked like mud streaking down my face. I knew it wasn't mud so I just turned my head and didn't look. My wrist was swollen and my fingers looked like the skin would burst from being puffed-up so tight. I was still wearing the handcuff and didn't think to see if one of the officers could remove them.

Jake and I were both wrapped in a warm blanket and sat silently on the gurney we used as a makeshift sofa. The paramedic was talking on a radio to the hospital giving information on our injuries. He leaned in close to me and asked, "Do we need a rape kit?"

"No, he didn't touch me." I said loudly. Jake let out a jagged breath that formed into a loud sob. He put his arm around me and leaned his forehead lightly against my hair.

As soon as we arrived at the hospital we were separated. I was x-rayed and cleaned up and then had to sign some papers to allow a doctor to perform surgery on the gash along my forehead and to insert a metal pin in my wrist. A plastic surgeon was called in to work on the gash. He would cut off more skin to make the scar even and as unnoticeable as possible.

I was only vaguely aware of being brought into my room after the surgery. I could sense being lifted and placed in a bed and could feel a hard cast on my arm. I felt someone in bed with me holding me tight and drifted off into the wonderful dream I was having.

Nurses came in and out checking my vitals and the I.V throughout the night. I never awoke fully and continued to feel the warm presence behind me holding me tight.

I was beginning to feel pain. It was across my head and especially in my arm. It became uncomfortable enough to make me open my eyes. I looked at the arm lying across my waist and recognized the watch. I attempted to turn in the bed but gasped in pain.

"Don't move, love," he spoke quietly. "What do you need?"

"It hurts." Was all I could manage.

He arose and pushed a button calling the nurse. He came to the other side of the bed and sat where I could see him, and began stroking my hair.

"I love you," I whispered.

His eyes became wet and he swallowed hard, unable to speak. I waited for him to say something but he never spoke.

"Are you mad at me?" I asked. He didn't speak but shook his head back and forth.

A nurse came in at that moment. Seeing my eyes open she turned on the light. I groaned and shut my eyes. She injected something in my I.V. and I instantly felt like I was floating.

As soon as she left the room I looked at Edward. "How's Jake?"

"He's good. They didn't make him stay. He took quite a beating, but he should heal completely."

The door opened again and I looked up to see Charlie and Emmett walk in. They both looked tired and still had on their uniforms.

Emmett broke into a one of his huge smiles that he was famous for, but Charlie remained somber as he leaned over and kissed my cheek.

"Baby girl, we need to ask you a few questions. I know you would rather rest but we need to get this wrapped up."

"Did you catch him?"

Dad looked at Edward and back to me. Edward shook his head at Emmett.

"What?" I asked as panic began rising in me. "Did he get away? Is he still out there?"

Dad patted my leg to calm me down as he began explaining. "We found him right where you said he would be. He had shot himself in the mouth. He's dead."

I felt unimaginable relief. It was over. No trial, no looking over my shoulder, no more constant fear. I felt the tears running down my cheeks. Not tears of sorrow but of reprieve.

Emmett sat on the lower part of the bed as gently as his large frame would allow. "Jake was able to get the guy to talk quite a bit. He lived in your apartment complex in Texas and I guess you did something nice for him once."

I felt my cheeks burn hot with embarrassment. Edward reached over and took hold of my good hand and gave me an encouraging squeeze.

"Something about keeping quiet about him having a gerbil or a ferret or something," Emmett continued.

"A minx," I quickly offered. "Yeah, now I remember. He lived below me and everyone was complaining about the smell. I told the landlord I never noticed anything. I don't think I ever saw the guy face to face or even spoke directly to him."

"Well, it was enough for a psycho to develop a crush."

"But that was years ago," I protested.

"Yeah well, he saw news coverage about what happened at Carlisle Corp. last year. It reignited his burning desires," Emmett added with a chuckle.

I looked at Edward. He smiled knowing what I was thinking. It wasn't someone I had hooked up with. It wasn't a scorned lover. It was someone I had been kind to and had no contact at all.

Turning back to Emmett I decided to lay everything out in the open. "I wouldn't look at him or talk to him. The only thing he really said to me was that he wanted to cut off my head." Edward instantly stiffened.

Emmett rubbed the back of his neck uncomfortably. "Yeah, it was sort of his M.O. Sicko's like him like to take trophies, something to look at and relive their perversion over and over again."

I noticed a strained look between my Dad and Edward.

"Well," Dad added. "He filled Jake full of sordid details that luckily we can thank God he didn't get a chance to fulfill. Jake told us all about the phone call and Rose gave us her version."

I watched as Emmett swelled with pride. "Shit boss, we may have to add Rose to the payroll."

"She saved my life," I added vehemently. "And Jake, he was amazing giving me a clue like that."

"Do you think you feel up to talking with him for a minute?" Dad asked. "The kid is really shaken up and feels responsible."

"Responsible, NO! He's my hero, why would he think that?"

Edward rose and mumbled, "I'll send him in." As he walked out the door.

I starred dumbly at the door.

"Edward will be okay. He just had to face his biggest fear. It will take him a bit to get his feet under him again. It's not easy to have to sit back and not be able to do anything, especially for a man," Dad assured me. "He loves you very much."

The door opened slowly and Jake walked in with his head down not looking at anyone. Dad put his hands on his shoulders and pushed him softly toward the bed.

I sat up even though my head felt like it had been kicked and put on a big smile that actually hurt my pores. He finally lifted his head enough to look at me. The swelling in his eye had gone down considerably and was replaced with a distinct black circle.

"I guess I owe you a pretty big Christmas gift," I teased.

He just shook his head sadly.

"Jake," I spoke softly. "Please don't let him take you from me."

He looked at me confused. "I'm sorry. I should have been stronger."

"Yeah, you should have been able to take a shit kicking, warn me he had you, and then go get help. Wait, you did that so just exactly what are you sorry for?"

"I didn't want to call you. I refused but then he started talking about killing me and going after mom. He said he was going to cut her into pieces and send them to dad. Then told me he didn't want to kill anyone but he would if he couldn't talk to you. He said he just wanted to talk to you face to face. He promised me he wouldn't hurt you." Jake's body began shaking.

"He didn't hurt me Jake." I tried to sooth him. "I hurt my wrist climbing into the cave and cut my head trying to run in the dark." I didn't need to give him details.

"He dislocated my knee," Jake continued. "I could have taken him, but he kicked out my knee to make us even."

"Jake you beat him using your head not your muscles. He had a gun. Emmett wouldn't have been able to do any better and look at what a Neanderthal he is." I winked at Emmett, and Jake actually smiled a little.

"Hey," I whispered. Jake leaned in closer to me. "You should have seen the look on his face when I plunged the knife into his leg. Maybe he should have kicked out the girls knee not the kid with a six pack."

At that Jake broke into an authentic smile and whispered back. "I guess you can have my bathroom all to yourself. I don't want to piss you off." He threw his arms around me and kissed my cheek.

A nurse stuck her head in the room. "We have a slew of visitors out here; do you want me to send them away?"

Dad and Emmett moved toward the door. "We're done here if you feel up to visitors." I nodded. Jake stood and followed them out after blowing me a kiss.

"I can't be friends with you anymore," Rose growled as she entered the room with Alice. "What the fuck, Bella, do you really need all this attention."

"Shut the hell up and come hug me, you bitch."

Rose wrapped her arms tightly around me and didn't let up. "You really scared me," she whispered into my ear.

"You saved my life. I love you," I whispered back.

Alice bounded over to the bed pushing Rosalie out of the way. "Don't hog all the emotional bonding." She leaned over to kiss me then squealed loudly, "A cast! I get to be the first to sign it," as she dug into her large purse pulling out a sharpie.

As she began her artwork I asked, "How's Edward? He seems really…I don't know….just weird."

"Oh God, Bella," Rose began. "Calling him was so painful. He totally freaked. I don't know how he drove from Seattle. Emmett had an officer call me the second they found you and I called Edward to tell him the good news. He drove right to the hospital and a nurse told me he looked so bad they let him stay in your room with you."

Alice looked up at me from her doodling and added, "Jasper is with him right now. Edward's not handling this very well."

"What should I do?" I asked them both.

"Just reassure him how much you love him. He'll calm down, just give it time." Rose advised. "And if he dumps you ask him if we can still get his client lists."

We all broke into laughter and the door opened revealing Jasper. "Is this a hospital or a sorority?"

"Look at my drawing sweetie," Alice declared lifting my arm.

"Ow," I winced.

Jasper leaned over looking at my cast. His eyebrows rose as he said, "You know she is getting out of here at some point, right?"

"What did you do?" I demanded trying to see what she drew. Alice just put the cap back on the sharpie and dismissed my concerns with a wave of her hand.

Rose took a mirror out of her purse and held it up to the back of the cast. There was a perfect drawing of wonder woman, with very enhanced breasts, wielding a knife. I couldn't' help but laugh.

I looked at Jasper. "Is he okay?'

Jasper shrugged and patted my leg. "He just needed to let it all out. The thought of losing you really scared him."

I laid my head back no longer able to fight the medication. We chatted a little longer and when most of the conversation turned to work Jasper escorted them out of the room turning the light off.

Just a few seconds later I heard the door open. I assumed it was Edward and patted the spot on the bed next to me.

"Bella?" A soft voice called.

I immediately smiled without opening my eyes, "Mom."

Sue sat next to me rubbing my leg. "I'm very proud of how brave you were, and I want to thank you for saving Jake. I couldn't bear to lose either of you."

"Do you think Jake will be okay? I know he blames himself right now and that breaks my heart."

"We will heal each other as a family. We won't forget, but we'll move forward."

"Do you regret…" I began.

She immediately put her fingers to my lips. "Never, not for a single moment."

"Edward's upset," I sighed.

"Yes, he is," she said as a fact. "I was a mess, but I had Charlie to reassure me. Edward was alone and facing the thought of losing someone he just found. Men also feel like our protectors. He feels like he failed you."

"I want to fix it, but I don't know what to do."

"Oh sweetie," she smiled, "Not everything can be fixed. They just have to be lived."

"Lived?" I smiled. "Yes, I lived through this."

"Yes you did."

"Can you ask him to come back in here?"

She kissed my hand and stood to leave. "Bella?" she hesitated. "I love it when you call me Mom."

"I love you, mom."

"I love you too."

I waited for what seemed like hours. It was getting harder and harder to fight the medication when there wasn't any conversation to concentrate on. I don't know how many times I faded in and out when I finally heard the door open.

"Edward?" I called out in fear.

"I'm here."

"Don't leave me, please don't stop loving me." I couldn't help the desperation in my voice. I was sure he felt I was too much trouble, that my lack of relationship experience finally pushed him over the edge. Who would want someone that causes so much pain and tragedy in your life?

He crawled up on the bed and spooned in behind me placing his cheek beside mine. I could feel his tears running down onto my face. "Don't leave me, please don't stop loving me," he repeated.

15

Confusion

Edward

I couldn't shake the feelings of doubt I was having. I couldn't get past the fact she didn't even try to contact me before she drove off to meet that sick fucker. Her father was the police chief for Gods sake. She made the decision on her own. She didn't think about what it would do to me if I lost her. She wasn't as invested as I was, meaning she was still selfish.

I also knew if she stayed true to form she would leave. I am sure she would tell herself she tried the whole domesticated life and it didn't turn out. I was going to have a fight on my hands and I wasn't even sure if fighting to keep her would do me any good. Maybe she would stay this time but something was always going to come up. It would just be something else that would make her want to run. I couldn't sleep and laid there all night battling with myself.

The next morning a nurse walked in and I felt Bella stir. She pulled her I.V. hand under the covers. When the nurse walked up to her side of the bed Bella told her she didn't want any medication.

"Love, you need to rest in order to heal. Just take the medication."

"No," she insisted, "I want to talk to you and I want to be clear when I do."

Shit here it comes.

"Can you come back later?" I asked the nurse.

I was still lying on the bed wrapped around Bella when Charlie walked in. I sat up immediately and motioned for him to have a seat.

"You don't have to leave, Edward," he assured me.

"No, I really need a cup of coffee. Go ahead and have a seat." I kissed Bella on the cheek and left.

I got breakfast and coffee and sat in the cafeteria. I felt so confused. I was pissed and I wasn't sure why. I was scared and hated the reason why. I decided I wasn't going to fight to make her stay. I would rather let go now than later. It would hurt less now.

I stayed in the cafeteria longer than I meant so I refreshed my coffee and headed back to her room. As I exited the elevator I ran into Charlie.

"Edward, I was hoping to run into you. Can I talk to you for a minute?"

We walked into the family waiting area. "Um…Bella wanted me to tell you. Well, I guess I'm going to help her get away for…."

"Great Charlie, don't worry about it. It's fine." I knew I was being rude, but I was not going to have this conversation with Charlie. It was painful enough to have it with Bella and she obviously didn't want to do this with me personally. I headed down the hallway and decided if she could run so could I. I threw my coffee in the trash and turned around and headed out of the hospital.

I had a conference in San Francisco in a week and then a Managers meeting in Atlanta the following week. I decided I would head to Arizona and visit my parents. I hadn't seen them in awhile and was really hoping I would bring Bella with me some day to meet them. If I left right away I could manage to be gone for three weeks. Hopefully that would give me time to get my head screwed back on straight.

I called Lauren and asked her to book me on a flight to Phoenix. I only needed enough time to run by the house and pack some bags, check on Sam and make sure Seth would be around. He started school and I hated to dump everything on him right now, but I'm sure he would like having the house to himself now that he was spending so much time with Emily.

I felt like a coward for running off and not facing the pain, but I also knew this pain would drive me to the bottle and that was too big of a mistake to make. I had to get away and put myself back together. So I ran.

Bella

I woke up expecting to see Edward, but he never came. I didn't have a cell phone anymore and figured something must have come up at work. I took the medication and slept the hours away. When I was finally released Charlie took the entire family to Banff, Canada. Jake was in a knee brace and I was still in an arm cast but we had fun anyway. We took scenic drives, got massages, and just bonded as a family.

The most therapeutic part of the whole vacation was the late night talks between Jake and me. We discussed in detail what had happened to us. We cried and laughed and thanked each other. We decided we would let the entire experience have a positive effect and not take our loved ones for granted. We knew what it felt like to believe you would never see someone again and we vowed to appreciate the time we had.

When I got home the first thing on my agenda was to get a new cell phone. I was a little disturbed that Edward had not called Jake's phone to talk to me. I had left messages but he never returned my calls. I finally called his office and talked to Lauren. She told me he was going to be gone for three weeks. That was when panic filled me.

This was too much for him. He was trying so hard to accept my past but going through all of this pushed him over the edge. Of course he didn't want to commit to a woman so messed up. He was too good of a person to take on my baggage. He hung in long enough to protect me and now that I am safe he wants out. I couldn't blame him.

I moved on with life, trying to lose myself in work. Whenever Rose or Alice would bring up the subject I would just tell them Edward was really busy. I knew I was going to have to tell them eventually but it hurt too badly to talk about it right now.

I was at Alice's place going over her concept designs when she finally demanded I sit down and talk to her. It had been a month since Edward left and she wasn't letting me ignore it any longer.

"What happened to you guys," she asked. "You were the perfect couple?"

"I don't really know"

Alice lifted her eyebrows as if to say she wasn't buying that line.

"I honestly don't know. He left the hospital one morning and I never heard from him again. I can only assume he just got tired of dealing with all my crap. It was too much for him."

"Wait, Jasper told me you broke up with Edward."

"What? No, I didn't. Edward left me."

"Something is really screwed up here because Edward said you were moving away. Rose and I were just waiting for you to tell us and we were going to rip you a new one."

"Why would Edward think that?"

"He told Jasper that Charlie told him he was helping you move away."

"I have no idea what you are talking about." I grabbed my phone and called my dad.

"Dad what did you say to Edward when you told him we were going to get away as a family for a few days?"

"Well, hello to you too, baby girl."

"Sorry, but I just really need to know exactly what was said."

"He was kind of put out over the whole thing and told me it was fine and walked away. I just thought he was tired and stressed. It was kind of a difficult time for all of us."

"I know, but what EXACTLY did you say."

"I said something like I was going to help you get away or get you away or something like that. Why am I in the dog house for something?"

"No, dad, you're fine. Thanks. I'm just being female. You know how we can be."

I looked at Alice. "I think we had a misunderstanding. Oh God, how can I be so stupid. I just let him walk out of my life and didn't even realize it."

"Well, go drag his ass back into your life."

I drove straight to his office, but the closer I got the angrier I became. How could he have such little faith in me…in us? How could he just walk away and not even tell me he was leaving me?

When I got to his office Lauren was sitting at her desk. She informed me there was a staff meeting going on in Edward's office. I asked her to call and tell him I just needed a moment of his time.

She sat the phone back down and looked at me sheepishly. "I'm sorry Bella, but he said you will have to wait."

Like hell I was going to wait. I burst into his office and saw him sitting at the end of the conference table. Everything else faded into the background. I wasn't even aware of the others sitting there.

"I've waited a fucking month and I am not waiting a second more," I screamed at him.

He stood up slowly and glared at me. "You come back and expect me to welcome you like the prodigal? Maybe you're okay with leaving, but I'm not."

"I never left, you ass. My father took us on a three day vacation. YOU left."

I saw the heat rise from his neck into his face. "You left the second you got in that car and headed to the lake."

I stepped forward and pounded my fist on the table. "I had to save my brother!" I screamed even louder.

"You had fucking choices, Bella!" He screamed back. "You didn't think about us. You did what Bella wanted to do and didn't consider the consequences. Maybe you didn't run this time, but you know damn well it is only a matter of time. What happens when you get bored, or when things get too tough, or when I can't compete with the thousands of men you've had?"

I recoiled back as if he had slapped in the face. My entire body was filled with loathing as I regained my voice. "I changed, Edward. I opened my heart and let people in. You put people in little boxes where you can control them…give them a command and watch how well you've trained them. You didn't change; you just made your boxes a little larger."

I turned and opened the door. Before walking out I looked back at him. I couldn't believe he could say something so hurtful to me. I wiped my tears away and said calmly, "There was never any competition, nobody compared to you." Then I walked out of his office and out of his life.

Edward

I couldn't believe what I had just said. I threw her past into her face after telling her so many times it didn't matter to me. My stupid male ego was ruining the best thing I ever had. I thought after fixing things with Seth I didn't need therapy any longer. I was obviously wrong.

Jasper cleared his throat bringing my attention back to the room. "Go after her, Edward."

I couldn't. My hands were shaking and only one thing was going to bring me any relief.

"I'm very sorry for how unprofessional that whole scene was. Please forgive me. The meeting's over. We'll continue at a later time."

I sat until everyone left the room. I called Lauren and told her to hold all my calls. After locking my door I pulled out the bottle of Vodka. I quickly poured a glass and downed it fast. Then I poured a second and downed that one, too. It burned my throat, but I needed to feel something. I was completely numb.

At seven p.m. I heard a light knock on the door. I was beyond drunk by this time. "Go home, Lauren," I slurred.

I heard a key unlock the door and it slowly opened. Light poured in and I closed my eyes and put my head in my arms to block it out.

"Edward, dude, let me take you home."

"Jasper, have a drink."

"No, I'm the designated driver tonight."

When we reached the security gate Jasper buzzed Seth. He let us in and came out to the car to help carry me inside. I stopped at the stairs and told them I really didn't want to go to bed. I was just going to get a drink of water and sit on the deck for a moment.

Seth followed Jasper out to his car and didn't return. I walked into the kitchen and stood staring at the island counter. It was the scene of our passion, our desire for one another that couldn't be held back any longer. I couldn't stand to look at it. I don't even know what happened after that. I remember wanting to make everything go away, every memory, every place, that would make me think of her.

The next thing I knew I heard Sam barking. I was lying in my bed and without opening my eyes I could tell the sun was coming through the windows.

Bella

I drove home and went straight to my bed. Everyone assumed I was having cramps or something and I didn't do anything to make them think differently. I wanted to be alone to sulk, and cry, and feel sorry for myself. And it hurt too much to talk about it right now.

At nine p.m. I got a call from Seth. He was upset and worried about his dad. He told me Jasper brought Edward home very drunk and while he was outside talking to Jasper, Edward took a hammer and destroyed the counter top in the kitchen. He was scared and had never seen his father so distraught.

I knew at that moment that we both couldn't go on like this. I loved him too much to let him push me away. I was going to have to do something I had never done before. I was going to fight to keep a man. I also knew without a doubt that he loved me. If we didn't fix this we would both be destroyed in the process. I told Seth I was coming over.

When he let me in I went straight to Edward's room. He was lying in bed snoring deeply. I went to his drawer and pulled out some boxers and a tee shirt. I struggled to take Edward's pants and shirt off of him, leaving him in his boxers and climbed in bed with him. I scooted as closely as I could against him and he instinctively curled his long body around mine.

I felt him stir when light started streaming through the window. I opened my eyes and remained very still, waiting for the realization to dawn on him that I was in his bed. I could hear Seth outside playing with Sam.

I felt Edward begin to rub his fingers up and down my arm. Maybe this wasn't going to be a big dramatic ordeal. I turned to face Edward and found his eyes were still closed.

"Don't move," he said. "Just let this stay real for a little while longer, please."

"This is real, Edward, open your eyes, I promise this is real."

He slowly opened his eyes and I couldn't help but laugh. They were bloodshot and still a little dilated.

"Tough night, tough guy?"

"Tough month," he replied while he began rubbing my arm again. "As much as I don't want to do anything to spoil this moment I have to ask, what are you doing here?"

"I got a call from Seth, he was really worried about you."

He began rubbing his hands over his eyes and then ran them through his hair. "I can't remember shit."

"Well, it seems like you took out your anger on my favorite location in this house. It's gonna cost you big time to replace the granite on the kitchen island."

He opened his eyes wide as if in disbelief.

"Guess you felt the need to hammer something. You really should have called me," I teased.

He went back to rubbing his eyes again, but a small hint of a smile crossed his face. I decided it was time to get this over with.

"I'm sorry for everything I said. And I am so sorry for all the confusion."

He sat up and turned his back to me while he dropped his head in his hands. "Don't apologize. You didn't do anything wrong. God, if there was any way to take back what I said I would do it in an instant. You opened up to me and trusted me and I fucking threw it back at you. I acted like a child and let my insecurities get in the way."

"Edward, look at me," I begged.

He turned his head to the side, but didn't turn to fully face me. I scooted over to the edge of the bed and sat next to him, so I could look at him.

"My past is a lot to take in. I didn't expect you to accept it without needing time to process everything. But you have to understand from the moment I laid eyes on you I never wanted anyone else. When I left for San Diego I thought I could move on…but I couldn't. I have NEVER come back for a man, but I came back for you. And I am back again, for you!"

"You made my life complete and when Rose called…Jesus, Bella." He dropped his head back into his hands.

"Tell me about it then, Edward. Tell me what you felt and what you went through. Share it with me." I wrapped my arms around him.

He leaned his head against mine and let out a slow breath. I knew him well enough now to know that meant he was going to talk. He spoke very quietly and I stayed perfectly still and listened.

"I had clients in my office and Lauren called through. I told her I wasn't taking calls and hung up without letting her speak. She called right back and I just hit the mute button. A few moments later she walked into my office. By this time I was really pissed. I couldn't believe she was going to embarrass me in front of a client. She told me Rosalie needed to talk to me and said it was an emergency. I assured her with Rosalie everything was an emergency and I would call her back as soon as I was free. She came back a few seconds later. This time her face was bright red from her own embarrassment. It was the only thing that kept me from unloading on her right then and there. She said Rosalie told her to say this exact phrase, 'James has Bella.'"

I cringed when he said those words and I felt a shudder run through Edward.

"I just ran. I got in my car and called Rosalie. She told me she had called Emmett, but you made her give you time to work it out on your own. I knew right then I lost you. I tried calling your cell phone but nothing happened. It wouldn't even ring. The traffic was a nightmare and I was slowly going insane. When I finally got hold of Sue she told me Jake had been released. I wanted to talk to him but they wouldn't let me. He needed to be debriefed. My life was shattering around me and they were using words like 'debriefed.' I felt useless, like I let you down. I couldn't save Tanya from the disease that ate away at her and I couldn't save you from that vile scum." He shook his head and I hugged him tighter.

"Edward," I whispered, "It was never your job to save either of us. You didn't let us down. You were a victim just as we were. Tanya's disease happened to you. You didn't cause it. James happened to you and he was conniving enough to make sure you were not around when he made Jake call me. You said I had choices, but in that moment I didn't see any other choice. He had my brother and all I could think of was saving Jake. And yes, I would give my life for his. I didn't choose Jake over you. I chose Jake over me."

"How do we save us?" he asked while finally looking at me.

"You accept my apology and I accept yours."

He took my face into his hands and pulled our foreheads together until they were touching. "I am so sorry."

I ran my good hand down his cheek and answered, "I am so sorry, too."

Edward

I couldn't believe how simple the solution was. I knew I still needed to check out some more therapy so I could deal with my fear of losing her, but she was here, in my bed, in my arms, and in my fucking boxers.

"I think you should wear my boxers and t-shirt at all times. They look much better on you."

"I would seriously consider doing that, but someone destroyed my island and I'm just finding it difficult to find the proper motivation."

I took her hand and headed downstairs. I had to go face the music and check out the damage. Seth came in from the back yard as we reached the kitchen. "Hey, Dad. Do you need a little hair of the dog?"

"No, I think I'm done drinking for good." I stared at the damage in front of me.

"Well, you jump right on that new kitchen remodeling project because I'm off to school. I ran with Sam so don't worry about him. See ya, Bella."

I walked around the island shaking my head. I couldn't believe I could do so much damage and not remember anything. I also couldn't believe I would want to destroy something that held such incredible memories. I jumped up on the counter directly across from the broken island and just sat and stared waiting for someone to jump out and tell me I had been punked.

I finally looked over at Bella. She was smiling and watching my reaction to my drunken debauchery.

She shook her head and began tiptoeing through the broken stone to make her way over to me. "If you feel like breaking anything today aim for my cast. I'm ready for this thing to be destroyed."

I wrapped my legs around her waist and pulled her tightly to me between my legs. She looked at me with such love and I felt the same overwhelming desire I felt the day we christened the island counter. I leaned down to kiss her and put my hand behind her head to hold her tight. It wasn't close enough or passionate enough. My hands moved all along her body and she grabbed my hair and pulled me in for hard gasping kisses.

I grabbed the bottom of my t-shirt and pulled it quickly over her head. Her hand reached into my boxers releasing my straining erection. I grabbed the edge of the counter when she began kissing down my neck and stomach. I hissed loudly and my head fell back against the cabinet as she took me completely into her mouth.

"Oh…..fuck yeah," I heard myself scream.

I couldn't form a coherent sentence. All I could think about was how it felt to have her warm mouth wrapped tightly around me. I still had alcohol in my system and the room began to spin. I was in absolute bliss and I couldn't come to terms with the emotions running through me. I loved this woman so much and I loved what she was doing to me. I finally let the whole feeling pull me under as every sight and sound slipped away. I was only feeling. And I was only feeling her.

When I finally came back to reality she looked up at me and smiled. "If you destroy this counter I will never forgive you."

I used my feet to start sliding my boxers off her hips when she quickly pulled them down herself and put her arms around my neck while I pulled her up onto my lap. She was sitting straddled across me naked.

"If this is what happens I think I will be destroying counters for a living!" I pulled her tightly against my chest and kissed her as deeply as possible. She began writhing against me looking for friction. I placed my hand tightly against her wet sex and watched her head roll back with a deep moan. I wasn't gentle or slow. I plunged my fingers into her matching my movements to hers. I let my arm loosen to move her away from my chest so I could have access to her breast. I attacked like a starving man. Her breath was becoming labored and her fingers were digging into my back.

"Now, Love, Cum in my arms," I whispered between her breasts. Her entire body tightened into wave after wave of spasms. I pulled my wet fingers from between her legs and wrapped my arms tightly around her naked body. "I love you, so much."

She was gasping for breath as she tried to speak. "For you Edward, that was all for you. Only you can do that to me. Only your hands."

17

Dinner Party

Edward

I insisted on throwing a big dinner party for our family and friends. I noticed how much Bella's family enjoyed entertaining and I wanted to take a crack at it. The hard part of the planning was keeping everything a secret from Bella. I wanted to do this on my own.

I admit I had to enlist Lauren's help for some of the planning, but every decision was made by me. I decided to go with a potato bar and smoked Salmon. I rented a long table so we could all fit in the same spot. The caterers had just finished setting up when people started to arrive. My game room held all the interest for the men since the Redskins were playing. The women sat in the living room laughing hysterically every time a man would walk by. Jake and Seth along with Leah and Emily were lying on the large pillows in the family room.

I was nervous and kept pacing, making sure everyone was having a good time. When everybody had a drink we decided to finally sit down to dinner. We made our plates and I asked everyone to raise their glass for a toast. I looked over the long table at all the people Bella loved the most. I was amazed at the amount of love in the room and decided my plan was absolutely perfect.

I turned to look directly at Bella. I raised my glass and cleared my throat. "Bella, I love you more than I can ever express. There is not one single thing about you I would want to change, but you make me want to be a better man. You brought love and joy into my life. You were there when life literally exploded around me. You gave me the confidence to fight for my son." My voice cracked and the tears building in her eyes washed over the sides.

"I really wanted all the people you love to be here today. You told me once to ask you at the right time and in the right way." I bent down on one knee in front of her and watched her eyes widen in shock. I was vaguely aware of Alice screaming in the background.

"Bella, will you marry me?"

Bella

My heart was about to pound out of my chest. I heard the table break out into applause and cat whistles but all I could see was Edward. I fell out of my chair and onto his lap. I buried my face into his neck and held him as tightly as I could.

"It was perfect Edward." I cried. "I couldn't have imagined a better proposal."

He pulled back to look at me and smiled. "I haven't heard an answer."

"Yes," I screamed, "A thousand times yes!"

He reached in his pocket and pulled out a light blue box. This brought another round of screams from Alice. He held the box out for me to open. My hand was shaking as I reached out and lifted the lid.

I couldn't speak. The ring was unbelievable. In the center was a three carat princess cut diamond. I broke out into loud sobs as he placed it on my finger. "I love you," he mouthed to me. "You are my life now."

I kissed him hard and long. Finally Rose broke through our bubble of bliss. "Okay, get off of him so we can get a better look at the ring."

I was immediately surrounded by the women all speaking at one time. Edward stood back smiling when he saw Charlie making his way towards me. They looked at each other for a minute and finally shook hands. Neither man spoke nor am I sure they needed too. Both knew how the other one felt.

I looked at my dad as my hand was still being held out for inspection. I felt a stab of sadness when I looked into his eyes. He shook his head and refused to let me dampen my joy. "You will always be my baby girl. This doesn't change anything."

I pulled my hand free and fell into his arms. I felt Sue wrap her arms around us both and then Jake's long arms joining in the moment. I reached out for Edward and pulled him into the group hug. Life was perfect!