Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. The original content and ideas of this story are mine.

Thanks to my Nellers, for being a super beta and friend.

Xxx

Edward opened the door and watched the steam from his long, scalding shower escape the humid bathroom. He ran his hands through disarrayed, wet hair, and picked up his bag before making his way toward the living room. The bag hit the floor at the same time his body dropped onto the couch. Edward's ears perked and his eyes darted around the apartment looking for the sprite that hadn't left his side for a second since starting their project. She was nowhere in sight. His shower had been a welcomed break from her over the top zest. He leaned over and pulled on his socks and dress shoes. Standing from the couch, Edward looked at his reflection in the mirror, the corner of his mouth raised in contentment. Dressed in slacks and an oxford shirt, not very many scars were revealed. He looked like a healthy man approaching thirty. However, his lips thinned into a rigid line as he observed his face. He could get passed the discoloration around his eyes, that would eventually heal, but not the wounds. Without thought, his fingers began to trace the scars scattered across the left side of his face— a constant reminder of the shrapnel assault only five months before.

"She should be here in about an hour," Alice announced as she strolled into the room.

Edward turned toward Alice, grateful she'd interrupted the self-loathing he was headed. Alice definitely had her faults. She was a little too excited about… everything. She was meddlesome. She was definitely too worried about her appearance— and everyone else's. But, she was a true friend to Bella and that fact could help Edward overlook her little annoyances. He was also beyond grateful her help preparing for what could end up being the most important day of his life thus far.

"You clean up real nice, Edward," Alice chirped as she rounded into the kitchen.

Edward's brows rose in shock. "Are you being serious?"

Alice's head poked back out of the door, she gave him a once over, and then nodded before retreating back in the other room. "I thought I'd have to help you out, but I approve," she yelled. "Have a seat at the table. I made some lunch for you."

Edward sat down in the dining room and admired the large portrait of the Olympic Mountain range hanging on the wall in front of him. "Is this Bella's picture?"

"Yes."

"It's great."

"I guess if you like the outdoorsy stuff," Alice said with slight disgust.

Edward wanted to laugh at Alice's response. Alice's slight reminded Edward of another reason he loved Bella, her appreciation for the earth's beauty. The clank of porcelain against wood snapped Edward from his ever lingering thoughts of Bella. He wanted to burst out with mirth when he eyed the plate Alice had placed in front of him.

"Looks like you really slaved over this lunch," Edward said facetiously still trying to control his laughter.

"Hey, I don't cook. If you don't like it, don't eat it," Alice said as she shrugged her shoulders.

"No, pizza is good actually. I just hope there's more. One slice isn't going to cut it."

Alice rolled her eyes. "Would you like me to bring out the box?"

Edward gave Alice a pleading smile and she was on her feet granting his wish.

"No wonder you have her so smitten. With a face like that, you could charm the devil himself. I guess I understand her moping now."

The amusement on Edward's face fell and he laid his food down on his plate. Removing the napkin from his lap, he wiped his mouth and hands and then clenched the paper object in his fist. "Alice, can I ask you something?"

Alice stepped back into the room resting the box on the table and then took her seat. "Of course."

"What was it like for her… while I was gone?"

"It was hard for her," Alice answered hesitantly, refusing to make eye contact.

Edward reached out and grabbed onto Alice's hand. "Please, Alice, I need to know what she went through. You know she'll never tell me."

"I know, and I understand why she won't."

Edward stood, shoving his chair away with the back of his thighs. "I wish everyone would quit handling me like I'm a damn crystal vase." His hands clawed through his hair and he began pacing the length of the dining room. "Alice, please," he begged.

"Oh… kay," Alice complied reluctantly. "Only because I think you deserve to know what an amazing woman you are getting."

Edward nodded. "Not that I don't already know that."

"She was actually fine in the beginning. She was excited when she got your letters, but completely driven in school. She stayed busy. Then… your letters quit coming and she—"

"She what?" Edward pleaded.

"I don't know. It was like a part of her disappeared right along with you."

Edward's face fell into the palms of his hand as he tried to hide his crumbling face. Emmett had hinted at the suffering Bella had gone through and he had made some assumptions, but hearing it from someone who witnessed it was harder than he thought it would be. As painful as it was, he wanted to know what he had put her through. He wanted everything exposed so he could then leave it in his past. He wouldn't ever have to wonder about it again.

"Edward?" Alice asked cautiously.

Edward sucked in a breath through his clenched teeth and forced his compressed eyes to open. "How long?"

"How long what?"

"She got over it, right? When?"

Alice wrung her hands in her lap and Edward knew that another blow was coming, because he'd never seen Alice this cautious. Her big golden eyes looked up; full of tears and Edward felt a stabbing sensation in his gut.

"Edward, it got worse before it got better. When she found out she was pregnant she was… disoriented. She wanted to be excited about the baby, but she was terrified. She wanted to keep her hopes up for you, but she was getting scared when she didn't hear from you for so long. She wanted to stay focused on her schooling and work, but wanted to retreat to her room and never come out. Her eyes, they always looked like she was about to cry."

Edward's elbows dropped to his knees and his hands gripped painfully at his neck. Tears poured from his eyes to the tan carpet below his feet. His stomach rolled and he thought he might be sick.

"When she found out you were in that hospital, but didn't want to see or hear from her, that was when any life in her seemed to retreat. She went about life like a robot. She did what she needed to and then she waited. Waited to hear from you, and then…"

Edward tried to wait patiently, but couldn't. "Say it," Edward roared.

"You broke her heart," Alice whispered.

Suddenly the air was too thin. His lungs were heaving as his mouth gasped for air. His smooth flesh was covered in a sheen of sweat. His large hands trembled as they clenched around the edge of the table. His mind flooded with his own self-chastisement. You hurt her once and you'll do it again. You aren't capable of being a loving father and husband. You're a danger to them. She deserves better. If she's smart she'll say no when you ask her to marry her. The demons that had been Edward's constant companion in Germany were starting to take over his mind and heart. He could feel himself being dragged down, becoming insecure, and going into protective mode.

"Edward… Edward…. Edward…" A voice filtered through his mind as if it was coming from another time.

Edward shook his head trying to dislodge the thoughts running through his mind. He couldn't breathe. His fingers tugged at the neckline of his shirt, pulling it away from his constricting throat. He needed air. He had to move. Edward stood making his way toward the door, but something was latched to his arm, and he heard the voice again.

"Edward…. Edward, no!" Two hands bracketed his face forcing him to cast his glance downward. His eyes tried to focus on the woman in front of him persistently calling his name. "Edward… Edward…. Look at me."

Using all of his inner strength, Edward focused his vision and really looked at Alice. His limbs trembled, accompanied by an erratic breath. He felt out of control.

"Where's your medication, Edward?"

"In my bag," he said as he crashed his back against the wall and slid down to the floor. His palms shoved against his eyes as he began to rock back and forth. It took all of his self-restraint not to cry like a baby. He was so frustrated with himself. And he wanted to growl out in rage when Alice's words replayed in his head, "You broke her heart."

"Here, Edward."

Removing his hands from his face, Edward found Alice kneeling down in front of him holding out water and a pill. He snatched the medication from her hand and tossed it in his mouth followed by a long pull of liquid. He handed the glass back to the girl looking at him wide eyed. He couldn't handle the look she gave him and dropped his forehead on the arms that were crossed over his knees.

"Are you okay?" Alice whispered.

"What do you think?" Edward snapped.

"I think your freaking out."

Edward thought, 'yeah I have been working all day on a proposal to a girl I've waited my entire life for and I know I am nowhere near good enough for her.' A groan rumbled through his ribcage.

When Edward didn't respond, Alice spoke again, "I'm going to give you a minute to collect yourself." The sound of her clicking heels grew quiet as she retreated from the room.

The medication must have started to work, because thoughts other than self-destruction started to seep into his mind. Edward's logic told him he was headed into a dark spiral and he needed to climb out. Without opening his eyes, Edward began to practice the breathing his doctor had taught him. He focused on relaxing all of his muscles, starting with his knit eyebrows down to his curled toes. He became more aware of the war being waged in his head, his insecurities and illness versus his common sense and what he knew to be true in his heart. Every time his mind recollected the love he knew Bella had freely given him, his mind would scream, she deserves better. As he worked to push that fear away, it was quickly replaced with another. Guilt for all that he had put her through these last months, and then his heart would scream, Bella understands you're doing your best and she's forgiven you. The mental battle raged for several minutes and then Edward began to see things more clearly as his medication began to disperse in his system, calming him, dissipating the panic and fear, regulating his breathing. He was coming back to himself. Pulling his head from his arms he shoved his fingers into his hair and pulled. He sat this way for several minutes until he felt like he was truly himself again, with only a pebble size of fear and regret residing in his chest.

"Are you okay?" Alice asked hesitantly from the hallway.

"I'm better. I'm sorry, Alice."

With grace Edward couldn't comprehend, Alice maneuvered herself onto the floor next to him. "I shouldn't have told you anything."

Edward shook his head in humiliation. "It's okay, Alice, I needed to know. To fully have closure from all of this, I needed to know everything and you know she would have only given me the sugar coated version."

"It's in the past, Edward. You need to accept that it's happened, vow to never do it again, and move on."

"I know."

"She's going to be home soon. Are you going to be okay?" Alice asked worriedly.

"Yes… No… She deserves better Alice."

"Edward, you only asked me about while you were gone, now I am going to tell you what she was like when you came back." Edward tried to shake his head. He wasn't sure he deserved to be relieved of his guilt so quickly. "Edward, those days you were gone it was as if someone had buried her alive, but the day you called, it was as if someone had drawn her back to the surface of her life. She was able to breathe again. She was able to see light. The sun warmed her skin again. She smiled; smiled so wide I thought her lips might crack open. You made her whole again."

Edwards's fingers brushed quickly between his cheeks wiping away the cascading tears. "Thank you, Alice."

"You're welcome. She forgave you, Edward. You need to forgive yourself… completely. She loves you."

Edward nodded and smiled as a bubble of laughter tried to escape. "I love her too, you know."

Alice nudged his shoulder. "You're about to ask her to marry you, you better."

"You're sure, she's happy? Really happy… with me?"

"I don't need to answer that. What's your heart telling you?"

"We belong together," Edward said. Once he said the words, they were confirmed in every ounce of his soul.

Alice hugged him and Edward clung to her.

"Thank you, Alice, for everything."

Alice stood and said, "Of course, my best friend is in love with you. I'd do anything for you." Alice looked down at her wrist and her eyes grew in size. "She's going to be home soon. Go get your face washed off and try to do something with that unruly hair. I'll clean up lunch and then I am going to go to Jasper's for the night."

"Right," Edward turned on his heels and headed for the bathroom. He needed to get it together. He was about to ask Bella to be his wife.

Xxx

"Stop kicking me," Bella whined for the tenth time. She pulled her blinker down and turned her steering wheel to the left. "Ah, baby, that hurt. Get out of my ribs." She pressed her palm against the swell of her belly that seemed to be growing every day.

Relief flooded Bella as she pulled into her parking spot. She was finally home after a long day. She was already envisioning herself sliding into her bed after filling her stomach with the leftover lasagna sitting in the refrigerator. She slung her messenger bag over her shoulder as she hoisted herself out of her car.

In daily ritual, Bella unlocked the mailbox and held her breath as she checked for a letter. Her spirits fell when the box was empty. Her letters had become sparse now that they were seeing each other more frequently, but she always hoped for a letter from Edward. This was not a habit that would be easily broken.

A foot jabbed at her internal organs. A sigh escaped her throat and she reassured, "I know, I know, I'm hungry too, baby."

She twirled her keys one last time before inserting her key into the lock. Her hand clasped the knob and her eye caught a flick of white on the door. Her eyes focused and she realized it was an envelope with her name on it. The white envelope with red and blue slashes around its perimeter was just like the envelopes Edward's letters came in while he was overseas. Leaving her keys in the door, she retrieved the unsealed envelope.

Sliding the card from its encasing she read:

"Do you think you will fall in love again? And, if you do, do you think you will trust her and believe that she wants to be with you just as much as you want to be with her?" – Bella McCarty

Bella recognized the typed words. They were the words she'd asked Edward in one of her very first letters to him. Her eyes moved further down to the words written in Edward's script.

Yes, Bella, I found love again, with you. I trust you completely and I hope that you want to be with me nearly as much as I need to be with you.

Bella felt a thrill course through her. She wanted him like she'd never wanted another. Her teeth gnawed into her lower lip as she looked the envelope over. There was no postage or address. Did Alice tape it on the door? But how would she get this from Edward? These questions scrolled through her mind as she walked into her apartment.

Completely focused on the envelope in her hand, she was startled when an envelope skimmed across the top of her head as it dangled by a ribbon from the ceiling. She looked up and tugged the envelope that matched the one in her hand. She wasted no time in removing the note card tucked inside.

"Tanya was the only woman I had ever loved. I think that I really did love her. I can't say for sure, because I have never loved another so there is nothing for me to compare it to. If I can determine it by how devastated I was by what she did to me, I can only assume that I was completely in love with her." – Edward Cullen

Emotions tumbled through Bella like a waterfall. Confusion… utter confusion. What were these envelopes and how did they get in her apartment? She was thrilled by the flashbacks into her correspondence with Edward. However, an insecure ache in her stomach rolled as she thought of Edward loving another. Dropping her bag to the floor she continued to read Edward's written words.

It wasn't even close to love. I had no idea what it was to love someone with my whole heart until I found you, Bella McCarty.

Bella grinned so wide, her cheeks cramped. Her eyes darted around the room and she gasped at the envelopes hanging from ribbons throughout the apartment. She clasped the two letters she'd read in one hand and yanked another.

"Looking back now though, I know that the relationship wasn't right. The attraction was there, we had fun, and he understood me, but I realize he wasn't my best friend and I think for a relationship to be successful, you have to be each other's best friend. Is that strange?" – Bella McCarty

Not strange at all. Bella, you are my best friend, my lover, and my soul's mate.

A bubbling giggle burst from her throat and shivers ran up her arms. "Alice, are you home?" She called. There was no answer. Her mind screamed, What is this? as she made her way to the kitchen doorway and retrieved the paper.

"P.S. I think of you more than I should." – Edward Cullen

Almost a year ago, I received your first letter and since then I have never been able to get you off my mind, and I don't think I ever will.

Bella couldn't shake the feeling that she was being watched. "Hello?" Her trembling voice asked. Quietly she waited for a response that never came. Her attention couldn't be deterred from the game at hand. She was nearly bursting with giddiness as she made her way to the next envelope hanging in front of the balcony door.

"I think I'm going to have to strongly disagree with you on the whole 'I'm getting the better end of the bargain' accusation. You don't seem to see yourself clearly. The things that you think make you unappealing, I find likeable. You aren't emotional; you're passionate about your interests and the people you care about. You aren't plain; you're real and natural. That's a good thing. I can't handle high-maintenance. Not that that's a bad way to be, it's just not what I want in a woman… not that you're trying to be what I want... forget it… it's a good thing to be who you are. What you consider clumsy; well, that could be free entertainment." – Edward Cullen

From the first letter I opened from you, I knew what a treasure you were. You are absolutely perfect for me.

Her mind was running away trying to figure out what this was all about. She knew what she thought it could be— what she hoped it would be— but didn't want to get her hopes up. This was not a proposal. Edward wasn't even here… was he?

"Edward? Are you here?" She called, full of desperation. She stood still waiting to hear his voice. Nothing. Not wanting her immense happiness to be deterred, she moved to the hallway, and tore open the message.

"Are you a baby person? Most guys I know are weirded out by babies." – Bella McCarty

I thought I wasn't a baby person, but I couldn't be more excited that you're having mine.

Bella's hand fell to her little peanut and caressed her womb. She was suddenly aware that the baby had quit kicking her as soon as she read the first letter. Could the baby sense her absolute joy? Her throat clogged as she became overwhelmed by the assurance of them being a family.

"There isn't one particular way I would want to be kissed that would make it a fantasy kiss. I guess an amazing kiss would involve the perfect kisser. That doesn't mean someone who has had loads of practice and has it down to an art. He would know me. He would know when I want it to be passionate and aggressive, or slow and cherished. Let me take charge when I want, or he would take command when I need to be controlled. Tease me when I want to be tortured in a good way. He would know my sensitive spots and when I longed and needed to be kissed there. That is the best way I can think of to explain it, because you can't be kissed the same way every time and always have the same reaction. I'm not asking for much right? Maybe that's why I've never had the perfect kiss. I would know because I would have kicked up my heel in the middle of the kiss— I'm just teasing, that's a girl joke. I will say that some of my favorite romantic movies have all had scenes where they kiss in the rain:Say Anything, Breakfast at Tiffany's, The Notebook, 50 First Dates, Pride and Prejudice(with Keira Knightley, not my favorite version),Spiderman, Bridget Jones' Diary 2. I have always wanted to kiss in the rain, but never have." – Bella McCarty

Every kiss with you has been electrifying and I think our first kiss in the rain hits those Hollywood kisses right out of the park. I want to feel your kisses multiple times a day, every day, for the rest of our lives.

Bella's lips began to tingle. She closed her eyes and her finger tips found her lower lip. She could almost feel the unbelievable connection she felt to Edward whenever he kissed her. Her stomach was flip flopping all over the place and it had nothing to do with the growing fetus inside of her.

The bathroom door held her next treasure.

"You're worth it." – Bella McCarty

I hope that after all you have endured as you've stood by me, that you still think I'm worth it.

Bella had to fight off the tears as she thought of all they had been through together in such a short time. Not wanting to dwell on her time without Edward, she made her way down the hall to the hanging message.

"Now I have to answer your questions. The perfect woman? Hmm, let me think. Definitely long, brunette hair, chocolate brown eyes, fair skin, about 5'5'', small frame, full lips, and a heart shaped face." - Edward Cullen

It was you, Bella. From the moment I read your first words you captured me. When I saw your picture at Emmett's, I knew every other woman on earth would pale in comparison to you.

Bella remembered reading those words from him and feeling exhilarated that he had basically described her. He had been so sneaky, in setting up their first meeting. Sneaky and a dream come true. She flicked on the hall light to get a better look at the memo on her bedroom door.

"In the future I'll have to be clearer on what my desires are from you." – Edward Cullen

You have no idea how clear I am about to make that.

What was he going to make clear and when? Bella's heart stuttered in her chest and she whirled around taking in her surroundings. Was Edward here? She opened her door with a trembling hand wondering if he was on the other side of the door. She twisted the knob on her lamp causing her room to come aglow. She felt a jolt of disappointment and a tear formed in the corner of her eye. Edward wasn't there. She pulled down the envelope hanging in front of her face.

"I wish I could assure you that you will be able to fall in love again and that you will live happily ever after, but I can't make that promise." – Edward Cullen

I still can't make the promise of a happily ever after. But, I promise to spend the rest of my life trying to give you the happily ever after that you deserve. As long as you are mine, I know I will.

The tears now poured from her eyes and she released the cries swelling in her chest. She knew that there was still another letter on her bed resting against a bouquet of white roses and lilies. Swiping at her eyes, she did her best to clear her vision. She sat on the edge of her bed and rested the stack of envelopes she'd been carrying. Leaning over she inhaled the floral scent of the bouquet and slipped the final envelope into her hands. With trembling fingers she released the note from its confinement.

"Marry me?" – Edward Cullen

There wasn't an accompanying message from Edward below the quote like the others. She turned the card over, but then dropped it when a velvety voice startled her.

"Will you?"

She spun around to find Edward standing in the doorway of her room. Her heart was slamming against her rib cage, tears cascading over her cheeks, and her hand flew to her mouth to contain the heaving sobs erupting from her diaphragm.

Edward took a tentative step into the room. "You said yes to me once before, and I'm hoping you'll say it again."

Bella was speechless as Edward made his way toward Bella. He stood in front of her and Bella craned her neck back to look up at the most beautiful face she'd ever seen. He took her hands in his. Bella could feel the sweat on his palms and the quiver coursing through those perfectly large and calloused hands.

"I'm sorry that I can't get down on one knee for this," he apologized. Bella shook her head, still unable to get a word out. She tugged on his hands and pulled him down next to her on the bed. He rested a hand on her thigh and looked her straight in the eye.

"I know that you've been to hell and back with me. You have endured more than you bargained for. I know I hurt you and I'm sorry. If you'll let me try, I will spend all of my days trying to make it up to you, Bella." Edward's voice broke and tears began to engulf the green eyes Bella loved so much. "I love you with my whole heart. As long as my heart beats, I want it to be owned by you. I want to have you by my side as we walk through life. I want this…," he placed a hand on Bella's protruding stomach. "…to be the first of many we create. I want to go to bed every night and feel your warm body next to mine. I love you. Will you marry me?"

Bella looked down and found Edward's thumb and pointer finger grasping a beautiful engagement ring. The large diamond, resting on a platinum Tiffany's band, shined brighter than all the stars in the sky. Its beauty took Bella's breath away. She sat mouth slack open while she stared at it.

Edward's whispered words pulled her from her admiration. "Please say yes."

Bella nodded her head and threw her arms around his neck. Edward wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her as close as the peanut would allow.

"Yes, Edward! Yes! Yes! Yes!"

"I love you, Bella," Edward cried.

"I love you."

Edward pulled away from their embrace and slid the ring onto Bella's finger. As Edward watched his ring lock in place on Bella's finger, a breath slowly escaped his throat, a sigh of pure contentment.

When Edward looked up and met Bella's stare, he saw matching emotions: pure joy, love, and… desire. Minutes passed without a word being spoken as the tears on their faces dried and their gazes became more intense.

Ever so slowly, Edward's hand rose to Bella's neck. His fingers caressed her skin and he felt like he'd never touched her before this moment. Her eyes slid close with his gentle caress. He leaned forward and allowed his lips to rest on her eyelid, her cheek, her forehead, her neck, and finally her lips. The contact was so gentle it could have been a feather. His fingers trailed slowly from her neck and traced the bones of her collar. Slow pants began to escape Bella's full lips, causing one side of Edward's lips to quirk. Leisurely, he began to make work of the buttons on her shirt. As the second button released, Edward caught a glimpse of the swell of Bella's breasts rising and falling in rapid succession.

This moment, this intimacy, it felt so different than any other time he'd been with her. They had always been so desperate for each other that things had never moved this reverently. But, Edward knew, for him to stay in control, to be safe with her, he had to take this at a snail's pace.

Unhurriedly, he slid the shirt from her shoulders and dropped the fabric to the ground. Edward stood from the bed. He took the flowers and envelopes and sat them on the desk at Bella's bedside, never taking his eyes off of her brown orbs. Then just as slowly, he removed his shoes, followed by his shirt. He then bent down and detached Bella's boots from her feet. His fingers clasped her shoulders as he tenderly laid her down.

His eyes rested on her belly and then he braced his hands at her sides and allowed his lips to explore her stretched flesh. Bella's hands slid into Edward's hair and her fingernails softly scratched at his scalp. Edward looked up and gave Bella a look of complete desire and adoration. In one motion— to smooth for an injured man— Edward lay at Bella's side. His lips sought hers desperately and they kissed, deeply and slowly.

The first words spoken since touching his fiancé, was Edward's rasping voice, "Let me love you."

Bella nodded and then pulled Edward flushed against her body and found his lips.

Xxx

I have just agreed to submit a chapter to the Fandom4LLC. They are a group from the fandom raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). In September you will be able to go to their website and make contributions to LLS and in return get written work by authors from the fandom. All chapters are exclusive to this website and you won't be able to read them anywhere else. Here is my question for you. What outtake would you want (from either of my stories), or what chapter would you like in another perspective, or if you could create any scenario with Edward and Bella and have me write a chapter for you, what would it be? It's hard for me to know what the readers would like to read, so let me know.

Reviews always make me smile no matter how badly my kids are driving me crazy.