A/N Midnight Cougar is the bestest!
This is a transitory chapter so a bit shorter than usual...
~ December 1st, 2012~
Thirty-five minutes since Isabella had been rushed to Obstetrics, lying on that hideous stretcher. Time was ticking by at an agonizing pace. I'd been told to stay put, but the wait was killing me. I wanted to be with her. I wanted to hold her hand… comfort her… give her strength…anything but sit around doing nothing while she fought for our son's life on her own.
God, only the thought that there was a chance she could lose Matthew was enough to send me into frenzy.
I paced the sterile waiting room, fear and distress choking each breath I took. The tie I was wearing felt like a hangman's noose around my neck, and I loosened the knot before pulling it over my head and tossing it on a nearby chair. Emmett looked up from the message he was typing. His eyes swept over me with visible worry, and he frowned, but remained silent.
"What's taking so long?" I muttered, running a hand through my already chaotic hair and feeling like I was dangerously close to losing the last ounce of patience I still had left in me.
"Anytime now," Jasper replied quietly, staring out the window.
"Jas, can you find out what's keeping them?" I asked. "Please? I'm liable to do something stupid if someone doesn't come here and talk to me already."
He let out a soft sigh and nodded. "I'll see what I can do." He pushed himself off the wall he was leaning against, but before he could do anything Dr. Clark rounded the corner.
"How is she?" I rushed towards her, my heartbeat picking up speed abruptly.
"She's stable," Dr. Clark announced, tucking her hands into her coat's pockets. "We managed to lower her BP to safer limits, and her abdominal pain is gone, but she still has some swelling in the ankles and a headache."
"And the baby?"
"The baby's fine."
"Thank God," I breathed, closing my eyes for a split second and feeling as if an enormous weight had just been lifted off my chest. "Oh, thank God."
"She needs to take it easy, Mr. Cullen," she said, her voice taking a sharp edge. "No more stress. She was incredibly close to going into preterm labor. Next time she won't be so lucky."
"I understand," I murmured, the feeling of guilt that had been nagging at me since arriving at the hospital intensifying. I should have cancelled the wedding the moment I found out about Isabella's pre-eclampsia. None of this would have happened if I had the common sense to make the right decision at the right time.
"I sure hope you do because we've had a similar conversation before. Now she'll have to be put on bed rest in order to lower her blood pressure and increase blood flow to her placenta, giving the baby time to mature. She'll need to limit her day to day activities to a minimum. I'm also going to prescribe her some anticonvulsive medication to prevent a potential seizure, and I want to see her a few times a week for check-ups."
I nodded, suddenly angry with myself for letting Isabella have her way with the wedding. I should've known better. "Can I see her?"
"Yes, room 301." She gestured in the direction she'd come from moments earlier. "And please remember, Mr. Cullen… no more stress."
"Yes, of course," I said with a stiff nod and excused myself.
Walking down the narrow hallway with hurried steps, I found room 301 almost immediately. I knocked softly before entering. My eyes fell on Isabella, and my knees almost gave out on me at seeing her in that hospital bed. She'd been put on an IV drip; all color drained from her face.
"Hey," she said hoarsely, her smile tentative as she sat up a little.
"Hi, baby," I breathed, rapidly closing the distance between us. I sat on the bed and leaned over to kiss her lips gently, placing my hands on each side of her.
"I could have lost Matthew," she whispered, her lower lip trembling.
"No, no, no," I said, rubbing my nose against hers in what I hoped to be a comforting gesture. "Don't think like that. Matthew's going to be fine."
A tear slid down her cheek quickly followed by another, and I felt like a horrible person for having allowed this to happen to her. I would've given anything not to see her so feeble and utterly defenseless against this suffering she'd been put through.
When I was younger, I used to consider myself the master of my own destiny. I used to think I was the architect of my fate, that I could just design my own little perfect bubble and live in it forever. To this day, it still amazed me how naïve I'd been, telling myself pretty lies to cover up the grotesque and unquestionable veridicality of real life. My first reality check-up had been Tanya's death, and now this whole pointless drama surrounding my family.
The thing was, I could handle my family's psychotic behavior, but not this. I could bear anything but this inevitable disaster that seemed to have followed my wife and unborn son like a fucking omen since the very beginning. It was breaking me that I'd been unable to stop the downward spiraling course of the latest events. Sometimes I wished I could stop life from happening.
"I hate her. I hate her so much, Edward," Isabella sobbed, her small hands clutching her stomach protectively, and I felt my brows draw together.
The fact that she was referring to my mother made my inner tumult of anger and disbelief even more unbearable. For a moment, I didn't even know what to say.
Sorry my mother turned out to be the lunatic everyone had tried to warn me about?
I should have hired better security for the wedding and banned her from entering her own home?
How the hell was I supposed to guess she was going to show up and say the nasty things she'd said? I didn't own a damn crystal ball.
But the thing I felt most guilty about was not cancelling the wedding. It would have spared us all the spectacle and its consequences.
For now I decided not to dwell on that train of thought and keep my sanity for a little longer. My focus was Isabella, and I forced myself to concentrate on her rather than the consuming hatred I felt towards my own mother. She and I were done. Forever. I didn't even want to understand her motives. I didn't care she was sick. To me she had ceased to exist when she set foot at my wedding.
"I know, and I'm sorry. I'm so sorry for what she said," I whispered, not daring to look her in the eye. I swallowed hard, concentrating on her collarbone instead. "I never would've thought she was capable of such malice. The things she said… what she did… Jesus, I can't even think about it."
"I'll never forgive her, Edward. Ever. I don't care she's disturbed. She's evil and she's never going to be a part of my son's life."
"I know," I assented. I wiped her tears away, and she shook her head.
"And her sleeping with James… How could she do that? He's almost your age, Edward."
I froze with my hand on her warm cheek. "Please don't." Sitting up, I directed my gaze towards the window, my jaw set. "Don't even mention that fucking sleazeball to me. I swear to God I'm going to make him pay for all the shit he's pulled. He's a dead man; mark my words."
James was a hard limit, and I didn't want to take my frustration out on her. She needed her rest, and I was certain my going ballistic in her hospital room wasn't going to help. In my mind, I'd already drawn a detailed plan of his impending punishment. James Hall was going to regret ever crossing my path, and I couldn't wait to see him fall into the pit he'd dug for himself when he decided messing with me was a good idea.
Isabella sighed heavily. "You don't have to stoop to his level."
"Oh, believe me, I do. This time he's gone too far. Someone needs to teach him a lesson."
One of her hands reached for mine. "Please don't do anything you might regret."
Before I could respond there was a knock on the door and Kate's head poked in. "I'm sorry; I just couldn't wait in the hallway anymore. I had to see her."
"Kate," Isabella whispered, holding out her free hand.
"Oh, honey," Kate said, eyes full of concern as she approached the bed and took Isabella's hand. "How are you feeling? You look so pale."
I got up to give them some room and walked over to the window while Kate took my vacant seat on the edge of the bed. I crossed my arms over my chest and looked at them. Kate was still wearing her long, purple dress, while Isabella now had on one of those hideous hospital gowns.
"I'm okay, I guess. The doctor said I'll feel much better after a few hours of sleep."
"Oh, right." Kate's eyes slid over to me. "We should let you sleep then."
Isabella shook her head, following her gaze. "Stay a little. I don't want to be alone."
"I'm not going anywhere," I promised firmly, knowing there was no chance in hell I was leaving her side.
Isabella sighed, pushing herself a bit higher. "This bed is so uncomfortable. I'd much rather be at Waldorf Astoria."
"I'll make it up to you. I promise."
"You'd better." She smiled gently.
"I should send everyone home," Kate said, sitting up.
"That's a good idea." I nodded. "I'll stay the night with her."
"Edward, you don't have to," Isabella said.
"I want to. I'd never leave you alone."
She looked like she wanted to argue with me, but wisely decided against it. "Who's here?" she inquired instead.
"Both of Edward's brothers, Angela, Ben, and Mr. Cullen," Kate replied, already headed for the door. "Alice and Rosalie stayed with the guests. I'll be right back," she added over her shoulder before exiting.
"You should lie down if you plan on staying all night." Isabella patted the bed next to her.
"Later," I murmured, peering into a paper cup sitting idly on the nightstand. "Shouldn't you be taking these?" I pointed to the couple of blue pills inside.
She frowned. "Oh, I guess you came in and I forgot about them."
"Isabella," I scolded in a hard voice, handing her the cup and a bottle of water.
"Sorry," she said sheepishly. "But Edward, you must be tired; it's after midnight. You should lie down."
I waited until she swallowed the pills before answering. "I'm okay."
"How's your back?"
"My back is fine, Bella." I told the little lie without batting an eyelash, not wanting to worry her any more than she was already. In truth, I felt a bit of pain in my tailbone as a result of the strain I'd put on it when punching James. But she didn't need to know that. "I'm fine, really."
"I'm just worried about you," she said softly, her brown eyes impossibly large on her pale face.
"Don't be," I replied, sitting beside her. Leaning over, I kissed her forehead. "I love you."
She sighed, closing her eyes. "I love you, too."
Later, after Isabella fell asleep, I headed into the hallway, closing the door behind me softly. Pulling out my phone, I dialed Jenks. He picked up after a few long rings.
"Jenks, sorry for calling at this hour," I greeted, leaning against the closest wall and running a hand through my mess of a hair. A young nurse carrying clean, white towels passed me by, and her gaze lingered on my face a little more than appropriate. She smiled, lowering her eyes to the floor and quickening her pace. Were the circumstances different, I would have been amused.
"Edward, man, is Isabella all right?" Jenks rushed, his voice gritty with sleep. "No one knew anything when we left the reception."
"Yeah, both she and the baby are fine. Listen, I need a favor."
"Sure," he said, not missing a beat. "Anything."
"I need you to dig up dirt on someone called James Hall. He's the motherfucker who crashed my wedding. I want to ruin him, so the dirtier the better. I know you have connections in the right places."
"You got it," he replied, and I could feel his grin at the prospect of being assigned for something so exciting.
"Be quick about it."
~~ 0 ~~
The next afternoon, I was guiding Isabella into our condo. After a sleepless night in the hospital, I was incredibly grateful to be home, and tried not to think about our ruined honeymoon.
"Easy," I said, keeping my hold on her waist firm.
"Despite what the good doctor might've told you, I'm not made of glass," she replied, looking up at me with gentle eyes.
"Well no, you're not made of glass, but you're fragile and I'm going to treat you as such." I frowned, tossing the bag with her wedding gown on the floor and crouching down in front of her to remove her sneakers. "I don't want to hear another word of complaint out of you."
"You just love bossing people around, don't you?" she teased, her hands pressed onto my shoulders for balance.
"You knew that when you agreed to marry me. Now you're stuck with me," I shot back grumpily. Stress combined with sleep deprivation was really getting to me.
She smiled broadly, her expression brightening. "I guess I am, Mr. Cullen." She shoved her left hand in my face, her engagement and wedding rings shining in the afternoon light coming from the kitchen.
I chuckled quietly, shaking my head. Her good mood was infectious. "Bed, Mrs. Cullen."
"Can I opt for the couch instead?" She batted her lashes at me sweetly.
"No," I said firmly, straightening up.
"You need to rest." I took her hand, leading her towards the master bedroom, and she sighed heavily.
"I can rest on the couch."
I threw her a warning look over my shoulder. "Dr. Clark said bed, and I have every intention of following her exact instructions. Don't test me."
"Fine," she huffed.
Once in the bedroom, I helped her remove her hoodie then lie down on the bed.
"Susan should be here any minute." I pulled the duvet over her, making sure to tuck in her feet. "What would you like to eat?"
"Mmmm…" She thought for a minute. "Something light… maybe chicken salad or soup..."
"I'll have her make both," I said, starting to walk away.
"Where are you going?" She looked at me curiously.
I motioned to the gray tux I was still wearing, sans tie. "To take a shower and change clothes."
"I'd like that, too. I feel… greasy." Her nose wrinkled as she glanced down at herself.
"You are going to take a nice warm bath that I'll fix as soon as I get out of the shower. Sound good?"
She smiled warmly. "Yes, thank you."
Closing the distance between us again, I bent and kissed her lips. She tasted of meds, and I hated it. "Anything for my beautiful wife."
Later that evening, as I was coming out of my study, the intercom buzzed.
"Hey, Dorian, I'll call you later," I said into the phone. "Thanks for the advice."
"Anytime," he replied before hanging up.
Walking into the foyer, I pressed a button to answer the call coming from the front desk. "Yes, Peter?"
"Sir, your father's here to see you."
I stared at the wall in front of me, caught off guard. Suddenly I was worried. Had something happened? Had Mother showed up again?
"Send him up," I said eventually.
A minute later, I was ushering him in.
"Hey. I hope I'm not intruding." He looked casual, dressed in khakis and a navy button-down with matching coat.
"No, no, of course you're not," I assured him, taking a step back. "Come on in."
"How's Isabella?" he inquired softly, glancing around briefly before removing his coat.
I took it from him, hanging it in the nearby closet. "Sleeping. She's doing better."
"I'm glad to hear that." He rubbed the back of his neck, looking strangely uncomfortable. "I was in the area and thought I would stop by and see how she's doing."
"Have a drink with me?" I gestured towards the living area.
He nodded. "Sure."
"Whiskey?" I asked as I walked behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of Jefferson's.
"Two fingers on the rocks," he replied smiling, taking a seat on the couch.
"I know how you like it, Dad," I chuckled, procuring two glasses.
I poured the drinks, handing my father his. He took a sip, his tired eyes wandering over to the floor-to-ceiling windows. He was silent for what felt like a long time. I sat opposite of him, waiting.
"I also wanted to talk to you about your mother," he said so softly I probably wouldn't have heard him if the room wasn't so eerily quiet.
I felt the blood rise to my face with indignation. "I hope you understand I can't bring myself to give a fuck about her right now," I gritted, my temper flaring. "My priority is my wife and my unborn child."
He sighed, and I could tell from his expression he'd been expecting this reaction from me. "I know, but son…"
"What she did…" I interrupted, gripping my glass with a little more force than necessary, "...it makes me so fucking mad I can't even think much less speak about it."
"She's sick," he said, his voice almost resigned.
"I don't give a shit," I spat. "Let James take care of her."
"I'm not asking you to forgive her." He leaned forward with his elbows resting on the tops of his thighs. "I just want her to get the help she needs. She's still my wife and your mother."
I shook my head, practically tossing my glass on the coffee table with a loud clank. I was getting angrier with each passing second. "Ask Em or Jasper. I can't… I just can't. I'm too angry to be of any help. I'll only make things worse."
Dad looked at me for a long moment, unseeing. He seemed to be pondering something.
"You're right, I'm sorry." He let out a breath he'd been holding for too long, his shoulders dropping. "I shouldn't have asked this of you. You have enough on your plate right now."
"Dad…" I paused, looking for the right words. "You need to let go. She's not the woman you married. She's not my mother. I don't know who the hell she is anymore. Get her the help she needs and let her go."
"It's not easy, you know." He chuckled bitterly, swirling the amber liquid in his glass. "Esme's been my wife for over forty years. I may not be in love with her anymore, but I still have a lot of love for her."
"I know, Dad," I said with a frown. For the first time in a long while I was actually feeling sorry for him. He didn't deserve this any more than we did.
"I'm sorry for coming here; I didn't mean to ruin your evening. Honestly, I don't know what I was thinking."
"You're always welcome to stop by. Don't feel bad about it."
He took another sip of his whiskey then glanced around the living room. "Would you mind if I stayed a little? I don't feel like going home just yet."
"Join me for dinner?" I offered, standing.
He stood as well, abandoning his glass on the coffee table next to mine. "And Isabella?"
"I don't want to wake her up just yet. She needs her rest."
~~ 0 ~~
I stepped out of the car, pushing the door shut. The mansion's surroundings looked pretty much deserted except for my father's Bentley and a black sedan I didn't recognize. A thin layer of snow covered the pavement and the rose bushes nearby the entrance. Pulling up my coat's sleeve, I checked the time, seeing it was half past six. Just in time for Miriam's dessert.
I'd gathered from seeing the unknown car parked outside that my father was having someone over for dinner, and I hoped I wasn't intruding. As I neared the front door, loud noises coming from the inside reached my ears. There was a bang, quickly followed by a deafening crash and shouting.
I stood, dumbfounded, with my hand suspended in the air, wondering what the hell was going on. After a moment, I decided to skip ringing the doorbell and grabbed the massive knob, opening the door.
"...think about it..." Dad was yelling hoarsely. "Do you even know what you're doing?"
"Oh, I know damn well what I'm doing, Carlisle." I heard my mother's venomous voice. "I'm leaving you, and there nothing you can do to stop me."
I stopped dead in my tracks, barely a couple of steps into the foyer.This I hadn't seen coming.
"I'm not signing those divorce papers," Dad threatened, and I listened attentively, my breath caught in my throat.
"Yes, you are," she hissed.
"You are mentally disturbed; no judge in the world is going to grant you this divorce."
She let out a shrill laugh, followed by another inanimate object crashing to the hard floor. "You clearly don't know me at all. I can ruin you, Carlisle."
Suddenly, I was furious. How dared she come in here and threaten Dad like he hadn't been by her side for the last forty-something years? How fucking dared she; after everything she'd done?
My legs carried me towards the sitting room, and I pushed the slightly ajar double doors with such force, they slammed into the wall.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" I boomed, and they both turned around to face me.
Dad looked surprised, while Mother didn't even bother to wipe the pissed-off expression from her face.
"And here comes the prodigal son," she shot back sarcastically, waving her hand in my direction.
I was standing in front of her in three large steps. I gripped her arm so hard; I suspected I was going to leave bruises. She didn't even flinch. Her eyes burned into mine with such hatred, it sent a chill down my spine. But I wasn't going to back down.
"Hey, hey." Dad interfered, placing his hand on my shoulder firmly. "Edward, son, let's calm down."
"Haven't you had enough?" I hissed, ignoring him and squeezing her arm even tighter. "You almost caused Isabella to lose our son. You ruined our wedding. You cheated on Dad. What more do you want from us?"
She struggled to free herself to no avail; I wasn't letting go. "I want all of you to feel the pain I felt when I found myself emotionally and literally abandoned by my entire family."
"No one abandoned you, stop with the guilt trip bullshit already."
"She's going to make you miserable. It's not too late to lea-"
"No!" I yelled, cutting her off abruptly. "I won't hear you denigrate Isabella anymore. She's my wife now. She matters, you don't. Not after the shit you pulled."
Her face twisted in pain from where my fingers were digging into her skin, but she went on. "She's got you twi—"
"Fucking enough," I gritted through clenched teeth, shaking her roughly. I was so incredibly angry; I couldn't even bring myself to care that I was manhandling my own mother.
"Edward!" Dad shouted, pulling me backwards. "Let her go!"
I eventually did, and she stumbled back a couple of steps as she rubbed the pads of her fingers against the sore spot.
"You listen to me." I was fuming as I pointed a finger at her threateningly. "From this day forward, you do not consider yourself my mother anymore; you are fucking dead to me. You stay away from Dad and this family. Do I make myself clear?"
"You don't tell me what to do, you ungrateful, insolent brat," she spat, glaring at me. Every fiber in her posture screamed hostility.
I inhaled sharply, fighting to keep myself in check. My jaw was set so hard I could practically hear my teeth grit. "You are testing every ounce of restraint I have left. Take what you want and leave this house. Don't ever come back."
She jutted her chin out defiantly. "Or what?"
She was baiting me, saying things she knew were going to make me lose it. For some sick reason, she seemed to enjoy seeing me so incensed.
"Or I'll come back here and kick you out myself," I replied pointedly.
She snorted unceremoniously like I'd just told her a flat joke. "You can't do that. This is my house, my home."
"It stopped being your home when you decided to run away with your psychotic lover. You two deserve each other, and I hope he makes your life a living hell. Now, if we're done here, you should leave. I'm guessing that motherfucker is waiting for you."
One minute she was seething a few feet away, and the next she was in my face, her hand inches from my left cheek. I grabbed it just in time to stop the mother of all slaps.
"Get out," I growled, pushing her violently past the double doors and into the foyer.
"Son, please!" I heard my father's desperate plea, but was only vaguely aware of his presence.
"Get the fuck out before I do something we'll both regret. Leave and take your poison with you. This family is better off without your manipulative schemes."
I gave her one last shove, and she tripped over her feet, falling onto a nearby armchair. She managed to look both shocked and infuriated. For a brief second, even I was appalled with my behavior. She was making me lose my goddamned mind.
She stood, straightening her dress and smoothing a hand over her hair. "You'll pay for this, Edward. You'll soon get more than just a taste of what I'm capable of doing to those who wrong me." Her voice was so lethally quiet, I believed her. She wasn't going to let this go. "This isn't the last you've heard of me."
Then she spun on her stiletto heels and stormed out the front door, slamming it behind her with such force, the sound resonated through the entire house.
I was breathing heavily as I glared at the door. I couldn't even remember the last time I'd been so pushed-to-violence mad.
Slowly, I became aware of my father's presence again. Turning to him, I noticed he was standing motionless; his blue eyes empty as he looked through me.
"Sign the divorce papers," I said firmly, clenching and unclenching my fists a few times.
He snapped out of his reverie. "Son..."
"You heard me. If you still want to have me and my family in your life, you'll sign those papers," I informed him, fully aware it was a low blow. "She doesn't deserve help."
Not giving him a chance to answer, I opened the door and stepped out, heading for my car. I left in a hurry, Miriam's dessert long forgotten.
~~ 0 ~~
When I got home, Isabella was sitting up in bed, watching Iron Man on her laptop. I had managed to calm down some on the drive home, but not entirely, and hoped she wasn't going to notice my current state of agitation.
"Hey." I shrugged off my jacket, tossing it on the back of a chair.
She smiled at me sweetly, hitting the spacebar to pause the movie. "Hey. Where were you? It's after seven."
I sat on the bed, proceeding to remove my shoes. "I went to check on Dad."
"How is he?" she inquired, her curiosity genuine.
"He's fine," I replied vaguely, deciding she didn't need to know what had transpired between Mother and I. "Has Susan left? I told her not to leave until I was back."
"No, I just sent her downstairs with some desert for Peter. She made that carrot cake you like so much."
I frowned down at the shoelace that wouldn't untie. "I see."
"Are you okay?" Isabella asked tentatively. "You look... troubled. Did something happen at your father's?"
"Nothing happened, and I'm okay," I answered, struggling with the shoelace and trying to keep my voice level. "I'm just tired; I didn't get much sleep last night."
"Did I keep you up?"
I sighed, my eyes sweeping over to hers. "You were a bit restless in your sleep, yes. And you know how I worry; I just wanted to make sure you were alright."
She arched a delicate eyebrow at me. "You stayed up all night watching me?"
"Maybe," I murmured, reaching under the thick duvet to rub her swollen ankle.
"Oh, Edward..." she breathed with a small frown.
"It's the only thing I can do; the rest is up to your body." I placed my right foot back on the floor, angling myself towards her. "I feel so guilty for what happened at the wedding."
"Stop it," she said more firmly, pushing the laptop to the side. "It wasn't your fault. I won't accept you feeling guilty over something you had no control over. No one could've ever predicted Esme was going to crash the party."
"And with fucking James at that..." I muttered, trying hard not to remember the utter shame and humiliation I'd felt at seeing them together. But most of all, I'd felt fucking betrayed. I had been stabbed in the back by my mother; the same woman I'd so fiercely defended when no one would. And to think that I'd almost been on the verge of ruining my relationship with Isabella because of her - I couldn't fathom what I had been thinking.
Even I had to admit I could be a real idiot at times.
"Yeah, that was a real shocker," Isabella spoke softly. It was the first time, since the wedding, that we were acknowledging the big elephant trampling our lives. "I'm sorry for not listening to you. You tried to warn me about James so many times."
"Now it's pretty irrelevant." I waved a hand dismissively. "We all saw what he is capable of. But he won't come close to you ever again. I'll make damn sure of that."
"What do you mean?" She looked at me questioningly before a sudden dark thought crossed her mind. "Edward, please don't do anything stupid."
"Do I look like a stupid person to you?" I snapped, a bit harsher than I'd intended. This day was taking its toll on me.
"That's not what I meant," she replied quietly, taken aback by my reaction. "I just know how bad-tempered and impulsive you can get. I don't want you to put yourself at risk because of him. He's not worth it."
I nodded, letting out a long breath. Suddenly I felt bad. She didn't deserve to be on the receiving end of my anger and frustration.
"I have this under control," I said in a softer tone of voice, resuming rubbing her ankle. "I know what I'm doing. Trust me."
She shook her head. "I trust you, Edward. What I don't trust is your self-control when you're around him."
"I have no intention of ever being around him again," I replied, and she looked at me skeptically.
"Do I even want to know what you're planning?"
I shrugged, standing. "I'll tell you when the right time comes." I leaned over and kissed her forehead. "But for right now, I want you not to worry, just rest and take care of yourself and our son."
~~ 0 ~~
Three weeks later, on Christmas Eve, I helped Isabella climb into the passenger seat of my BMW. Alice had finally moved in with Jasper only a few days prior, and they were having the entire family over for a celebratory dinner.
"Are you sure about this, sweetheart?" I asked, uncertain.
Isabella rolled her eyes at me petulantly. "Dr. Clark said it's fine."
"I know what she said, but..."
"I'll be okay; stop fretting." She sighed, exasperated, folding her legs into the car. "This constant worry of yours is starting to wear me down."
I closed her door, rounding the car and getting behind the wheel. "I'm sorry, but I can't help it. I need to make sure nothing happens to you or the baby. I can't lose either of you, Bella. I'd never forgive myself."
She leaned over the gearshift to kiss my lips as her fingers ran through my hair. "You're not going to lose us, honey."
I turned to her, touching her protruding stomach. "Sometimes this intense longing to feel him and hold him in my arms seizes my entire body."
She smiled, her expression understanding. "And you'll get to do that in a couple of months. Please, I'm begging you, stop with the worry already. It's going to turn you grey at thirty-five."
I shook my head, my lips curving upwards. "I think I already spotted a few gray hairs the other day."
Isabella chuckled, dragging her lips from my mouth to my cheek and finally lingering on my neck. "I miss you."
She peppered soft, seductive kisses just under my jaw, and I closed my eyes, feeling myself hardening in the confines of my jeans. I groaned, my hand drifting from her stomach to her thigh. I kneaded the flesh there, searching for her mouth again. We kissed for a minute, and when she began fumbling with my zipper, I pulled back, stopping her.
"Not gonna happen anytime soon," I breathed; my hand firm on her wrist.
She looked at me incredulously, her brown eyes ardent with lust. "Are you really not going to touch me until after the baby is born?"
I swallowed hard, turning to face the wheel and ignoring her question. That was exactly what I intended, even though the doctor assured us it was all right in slow, gentle moderation. "We should get going; we don't want to be late."
She huffed and grumbled something unintelligible before reaching for her seatbelt. She pouted for a little while, then reached for the radio and flipped through stations before finally settling on a Christmas carol sang by a children's choir.
The rest of the drive was silent except for the radio. At some point, Isabella inhaled sharply like she was about to speak, but quickly changed her mind. When I looked over at her, she just smiled and shook her head, and I got the distinct feeling she wanted to ask about my mother but didn't dare.
I hadn't heard anything from her since our confrontation at the mansion, and hoped she was enjoying wasting her life away with James. I felt calmer in a way, being relieved of the burden of always having to worry about her. I was living my new life with Isabella, while she was throwing hers away for a man not even half my father's worth. And I was fine with that. For the first time in my life, I was okay with my separation from her. It made me feel so much more in charge of the path I had chosen to follow.
I'd sacrificed so much for her, and the only thing I got in return was her hatred and maniacal vengeance. She'd stolen Isabella's big day and deprived us both of our honeymoon. She'd ruined the only opportunity my son had of being spoiled by a loving, caring grandmother. She was an awful person, and I was ashamed to call her 'Mother'. Focusing exclusively on my growing family was my newfound purpose, and she didn't fit anywhere in my future.
By the time we reached Jasper's apartment building, the sun had already set. We took the elevator to the eleventh floor, where his condo occupied half of the entire space. I knocked on the door, and almost immediately we were greeted by a grinning Alice.
"Hey, guys, come on in." She ushered us in enthusiastically. "Gosh, Bella, you look so good... really healthy."
"I have my overprotective husband to thank for that." Isabella chuckled, squeezing my upper arm playfully.
The air smelled of pot roast and baked sweets, and I inhaled deeply. I'd skipped lunch, so I was pretty much famished.
"Bella!" Jess came out of nowhere, rushing towards Isabella. She wrapped her arms around her, and Isabella's chuckle turned into a carefree laugh.
"Easy, Jess," Rosalie scolded from where she was standing in the living room's threshold with her arms crossed over her chest.
"Sorry." Jess pulled back with a sheepish grin, tucking a strand of blond hair behind her ear. She'd matured so much in the past year, and I was surprised to notice she was wearing light makeup. "How's baby Matthew?"
Isabella sighed contently, placing a hand on her stomach. "He's growing stronger every day."
"Little bro!'" Emmett boomed, appearing behind Rosalie and wrapping a large arm around her waist. Rosalie cracked a smile, reaching up to touch his face in a loving gesture.
"Hi, Em." I chuckled, his enthusiasm as entertaining as ever.
"And my favorite preggo lady." He winked at Isabella, nodding his head towards the living room. "Come, I'll fix you something good to drink."
"No alcohol, I hope," I said as Isabella shrugged off her coat, passing it over to Alice.
Emmett stared at me like I'd just sprouted a second head. "I'm not retarded."
"Could've fooled me," I shot back with a teasing smile.
Isabella walked over to him, and he flipped me the finger. "Asshole."
I laughed, and he let go of his wife, placing his arm across Isabella's shoulders and leading her out of sight.
Jess grinned up at me. "Hi, Uncle Eddie."
"I made you something," she said, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the kitchen with large, determined steps.
"Okay." I followed dutifully. "How's that boyfriend of yours?"
She groaned, throwing me a nasty glare. "Not this again. I already told you I don't have a boyfriend."
I laughed quietly. "If you say so."
Much later, after dinner had been served and savored, my cell rang, pulling me from a conversation I was having with my younger brother. Excusing myself, I stood from the table. I headed into the hallway, followed closely by Isabella's inquisitive eyes.
"Jenks," I answered promptly.
The sound of merry voices and clinked glasses filled my ears before my friend's almost giddy voice spoke on the other end of the line.
"Edward, my man, you won't believe what I just found out about Hall."
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~ Andreea ~