~ January 4th 2013 ~
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The Grand Lux Café was surprisingly quiet for a Friday evening. I spotted Jenks almost immediately, and headed in his direction. He and his guest were seated next to a statue of a nude woman opening her mouth to a funnel shaped… something. It was a very progressive sight.
"Good evening," I said in greeting, my eyes fixed on the unfamiliar woman.
Jenks turned in his seat to face me. "You're late."
"I'm sorry; Isabella needed my help with something," I apologized.
He gave a short nod, motioning towards our company. "Edward, this is Michelle Hayes."
"Edward Cullen, nice to meet you," I responded and extended my hand out, which she shook apprehensively.
Jenks gestured to a plush chair, and I unbuttoned the blazer I was wearing before sitting down.
Michelle Hayes looked to be in her late thirties. She had curly brown hair, bright green eyes and a very asymmetrical face. She was attractive, but not blatantly so. She had very delicate features which were accentuated by the pastel pink sweater she had on. Knowing James and his taste in women, it seemed quite peculiar that he would find this particular one worthy of his attention.
An impeccably dressed waiter appeared by my side with a menu. "Good evening."
"Good evening." I raised my hand to decline the menu. "I'll have an espresso; long, and a bottle of Evian."
He nodded in understanding. "Would that be all, sir?"
"Yes, thank you." He left, and I leaned back into my seat, trying to make myself more comfortable. The music was eclectic as always; a strange mix of Top 40 and Jazz, which I actually found compelling.
"Mrs. Hayes was telling me about the beginning of her... unconventional relationship with Hall," Jenks said, giving me a meaningful look before directing his attention to the silent woman. "Would you mind reiterating what you just told me?"
She sighed, reaching for her glass of wine and draining the last of its content. The empty glass met the table with a quiet clink, and Mrs. Hayes looked like she was steeling herself for what she was about to relate.
"There's not much to say, really. It started out innocently enough..." she began in a soft voice, toying with her wedding rings, "...meeting for coffee at the hospital's cafeteria, and taking smoke breaks together. It slowly grew from there. I didn't even know him prior to the first incident.
"My colleague, at the time, performed the mandatory drug test; I just happened to be in the lab when he did it. I was new to the job, barely three weeks in. James knew the test results would be positive and told his father about it. Mr. Hall came to the hospital that very evening. I don't know how he got into the lab, but he did, just as my colleague and I were preparing to leave for the day."
Her brow furrowed as if she was remembering something unpleasant, and Jenks sat up straighter. Clearly, she was getting to the good part.
"He offered us money in exchange for our silence. The amount was obscene. Neither of us could say no. So, my colleague faked James' test results, and we all went on our merry way, pretending nothing ever happened. My colleague was transferred to another hospital the next week. To this day, I have no clue whether it was Mr. Hall's intervention or not."
I snorted unceremoniously. Of course it had been Friedrich; that man's guts knew no boundaries. He and his son were so much alike, it literally made me sick.
Mrs. Hayes gave me an inquiring look. I shook my head. "I'm sorry, Mrs. Hayes, go on."
"Michelle," I repeated complacently. The waiter returned with my order, and I reached for my shot of espresso.
"So, I stayed, and a few days later, I ran into James during lunch hour. He introduced himself, and we had lunch together. He started telling me how sorry he was and how much he regretted taking stimulants to help with his fatigue. Naturally, I believed him. That's how we became friends and started hanging out regularly. One thing led to another, and a few months later, our relationship had developed into more.
"We decided to keep it between us. At some point, I fell for him and started wanting more, but he told me he wasn't looking for something serious. I tried to break it off with him numerous times, but each time he managed to convince me to stay. He was seeing other women, too, and that really bothered me. Eventually, I just grew used to the idea; our relationship was what it was. A year and a half later, I met my husband, and five months after that, I was a married woman. James refused to let go, so we kept seeing each other."
She paused, and I saw the opportunity to inquire about what really interested me. "What about the other drug tests?"
"Our hospital policy includes mandatory drug tests for the medical staff every six months. I covered for him every single time for the past seven years."
My question seemed to bother her. A crease formed just above her brow; an unmistakable sign of discomfort. "First of all, because his father continued to pay me, handsomely, and I realize how awful that sounds, but the money was incredible, and I needed it. I had huge student loans from college," she explained defensively. "Secondly, because I had developed feelings for him. Don't get me wrong, I love my husband, but I could never quite get over James." Her frown deepened, and she let out a heavy sigh. "Things have changed, and he's different now."
My interest was piqued. "What do you mean?" I asked, and regretted it instantly; I had a sinking feeling I wasn't going to like the answer.
"He lives with that Esme woman," Michelle said indifferently, stroking the modest rock adorning her engagement ring. "I'm not allowed into his apartment anymore; we meet in hotel rooms."
I could feel the color drain from my cheeks as soon as the dismissive words escaped her. The reminder that my mother was fucking James was like dumping a bucket of ice cold water over my head.
"You knew about them," I said in a low voice, fighting to rein in my temper. She couldn't be blamed for my mother's lack of judgment.
Something on my face must've alerted her of the fine line she was walking. "Uh... y-yeah," she stammered, glancing at Jenks anxiously. "I mentioned I wanted a break, and he started screaming and threatening to expose us to my husband. He just won't let me go. In all honesty, he's beginning to scare me."
"Why?" I pressed. The snarky voice at the back of my mind whispered that I was hoping for more information about my mother. I ignored it. She and I were done.
Michelle shrugged. "He was always kind of distant, but lately he's been plain cold. And he can get quite cruel when he wants to. At this point, I'm afraid of breaking up with him. He knows I have leverage over him, and that's why he kept me close all these years. I'm not stupid; I realized that a long time ago."
"Do you really think he'd tell your husband?" Jenks probed, his elbows now resting on the table.
"That and more. He's capable of ruining my life. And now with you two showing up, I'm between a rock and a hard place. Tell me, what do I do?" Her eyes alternated between the two of us, pleading.
"I can't guarantee he won't come after you once we expose him. But I can't let this slide either. He's done me and my family a lot of harm, and I intend on getting my revenge," I said firmly. She seemed like a relatively decent person, and I wished it hadn't come down to this, but I couldn't put her family before my own.
"What about me? What about my job and my marriage? I have a three-year-old daughter. What will happen to our family if I help you?" She looked almost desperate at the prospect of ruin looming in the nearby future.
"You should have thought about that before deciding to continue your relationship with James despite being married," I snapped, and realized I sounded a bit harsher than necessary. "You will give us what we need to destroy James, or I will wreck your life instead. The choice is yours."
Even to my ears, I sounded like a dick. But she was my only chance at ever getting back at James, and I had to get her to help us, at any cost.
"Please..." she breathed, leaning towards me over the table. She was begging me for leniency, and I hated it. It made me feel like tyrant. "I don't know what to do."
"I suggest you move to another city," I replied more calmly, having no qualms about doing what I thought to be the right thing. Unlike her lover, I wasn't a monster; I had no intention of actually messing with her life. In fact, I was more than willing to help her, with the sole condition that she'd help me in return.
Her eyes widened as she let out a small gasp. "But how could I? Our families are here... my husband's job is here. How cou-"
I cut her off impatiently, "I can get you another job in New York."
"New York?" She looked like she was having a hard time comprehending.
"Yes. I have connections there. I can't promise I'll be able to get you out of this mess completely unaffected. What I can promise is that I'll help you build a new life somewhere else. Because let's face it; once the truth about James is out, your life in Chicago will be over. You can tell your husband you've received an offer you can't refuse. New York offers great career opportunities; he won't see past the lie."
"What about his career?" she asked, bewildered and upset.
"What does he do?" Jenks inquired from beside me.
"He's an electrical engineer."
He waved her off with an encouraging smile. "He'll manage just fine; trust me. Edward here is giving you the opportunity to get rid of James and save your marriage. Your husband never has to find out about him. Besides... come on, the man's offering to find you a good job in New York. You'd have to be insane not to see the endless benefits in that."
Michelle closed her eyes and sighed, the pads of her fingers rubbing furious circles against her temples. She was quiet for a moment; looking like she was considering her options. "I don't have a choice, do I?" she finally asked, sounding resigned.
I shook my head, pushing my untouched water towards her. "I'm afraid not. Right now, we're the better choice."
~~ 0 ~~
About half an hour later, Jenks and I stood outside the café. Michelle had already departed with a cab Jenks hailed for her.
"Jenks, thank you for everything." I reached out my hand, trying to squeeze as much gratitude as I could into my voice. I couldn't wait to get home and share the news with Isabella.
He grasped my hand firmly before patting me on the back with a smile. "Don't mention it. You've always been of great help whenever I needed you; the least I could do was to return the favor."
"What's next?" I asked, pushing my hands into my coat pockets to shield them from the freezing cold.
"You said you wanted this Hall guy finished," he said, his eyes following a young woman wearing a long fur coat as she passed us by.
"Yeah." I chuckled, and he returned his attention to me. He smirked cockily.
"Leave it to me. Soon, he won't know what hit him."
"What can I do?"
"Absolutely nothing... well, except get Michelle a job as you promised, and pay for her new living accommodations in The City So Nice They Named It Twice," he said playfully, and I shook my head at him. He was in such high spirits, his good mood was infectious.
"Okay. Although, I don't know whether I should feel bad for her or not," I admitted.
"I don't think you should. If you ask me, you're being too generous. She brought this on herself; you have no obligation to help her." He became more serious. "Also, I would suggest hiring security."
I puffed out a loud breath. "I'm not afraid of fucking James."
"He'll come after you once I get him fired, you know that," Jenks warned, giving me a stern look. "Don't risk your family's safety because you're too arrogant and full of yourself to acknowledge the danger he represents."
I stared at him for a moment, contemplating. While I didn't fear James coming after me, I knew he probably wasn't going to limit his vendetta to my person only. He was liable to hurt Isabella and the baby, and I couldn't have that. I would've never been able to forgive myself if I let anything happen to either of them. "Where do I get a damn bodyguard?"
"Never mind, I'll handle it," Jenks murmured, and I could tell he wanted to roll his eyes at me.
I suppressed a smile. "What would I do without you?"
"I don't know, man," he said quietly, his dark gaze shining with mischief. "I really don't know."
~~ 0 ~~
When I got home, it was just after nine. I found Isabella in the kitchen, perched up on a stool and watching Kate make pancakes. They both looked up in unison as I entered the kitchen. My eyes fell on Isabella, petite and round in all the right places, and I couldn't help the swell of pride that coursed through me. My wife was simply radiant.
"Hey," she said with a smile. "Back so soon?"
"Yeah." I smiled back, walking over to her. "You should be lying down."
I kissed her forehead, and she shook her head. "I needed to stretch my legs a little."
"Lemonade?" Kate offered, motioning to the half-full carafe.
I declined by shaking my head. "I'll have a beer."
"So, how was it?" Isabella asked, as I made my way over to the fridge and grabbed a bottle of Westvleteren's 12; a brand of Belgian beer I'd only recently discovered. I sat down on a stool and began recounting the conversation I'd had with Michelle Hayes. Both Isabella and Kate listened quietly. When I was finished, Isabella looked up from the paper napkin she'd been shredding and sighed.
"I feel sorry for her. She's as much of a victim as we are; don't you think?"
"Yes and no," I replied carefully. "She should've stayed away from him, but I get what you're saying."
"What now?" Kate inquired, turning off the stove and placing the last pancake on a plate. She was no stranger to the "James issue" as she called it.
"We wait until all hell breaks loose, which will happen soon, no doubt," Isabella said, giving me a meaningful look.
"And then?" Kate pressed. I could tell from the tone of her voice she was worried for us.
"Then we enjoy James' misery," I stated, keeping my expression neutral.
Isabella frowned. "I don't think I could ever enjoy other people's misery."
"I can and I will," I replied, unsympathetic. "That asshole had it coming for a long time."
Isabella looked down at the mess she'd made on the kitchen island, purposely avoiding my gaze. "What about Esme?"
My hand clenched around the beer bottle tightly. "What about her?" I gritted, my mood doing a one-eighty. This shift in disposition was so abrupt; I could feel my blood pressure rise to the point of implosion. I was so fucking tired of discussing my mother.
"What will happen to her?" Isabella asked meekly, still not meeting my eyes.
"I don't know and I don't care," I answered as calmly as I could, trying not to take out my frustration on her. But my voice was filled with restrained choler, and I could tell by my wife's expression she knew she was treading on thin ice.
"Won't James come after you?" Kate intervened, causing my attention to snap to her.
I nodded, my jaw clenched. "He probably will; that's why we're hiring security."
"Oh." She looked taken aback by this new piece of information. "That's good, I guess."
I turned to Isabella, who was now staring at me, her mouth forming a surprised, small 'o'. "You'll be safe. I'd never allow him to lay a single finger on you."
She shook her head as if to chase away her initial stupor. "How long will we be keeping security?"
"For as long as necessary."
"Months... years...? "She didn't look happy at the prospect of having some strange man follow her around for an undetermined period of time.
"Let's hope weeks," I said more gently, noticing her growing concern. "I'm trying to make him leave Chicago, which might happen once he loses his license to practice in the state."
"What if he doesn't leave?" she asked in a quiet, almost whispered voice, and I realized she sounded afraid. I immediately hated that she'd come to fear that bastard so much. I wanted her to feel safe with me; to trust that I was always going to protect her and the baby from anyone who planned on harming them.
But somehow, her question had managed to plant the seeds of doubt into my mind. What if James didn't leave Chicago? We couldn't live in fear of him for the rest of our lives. Something had to give, and I needed to make sure I had the upper hand in this matter.
Trying not to give away too much of my own distress, which would've no doubt amplified Isabella's anxiety, I settled on a neutral answer. "We'll see."
~~ 0 ~~
It was a quiet afternoon at the office.
I walked through the double glass doors leading to my father's office, my mind still partially set on the meeting I'd just stepped out of. His new assistant, Lucy, sat at her desk, typing furiously on her computer. Her eyes peered at the screen over the rim of her vintage-looking glasses, darting in my direction when she saw me coming.
"Is my father in?" I inquired, taking in her decent silk blouse and pencil skirt, and wishing Victoria wore similar outfits.
She smiled, ceasing her typing and pushing an errant strand of blond hair behind her ear. "He just came back from lunch."
I nodded, already headed towards his office. "Nice glasses, by the way."
"They're new," she called with a nervous chuckle, before adding a quick "thanks."
I knocked, not bothering to wait for an answer before entering.
"Hey, Dad," I said, closing the door behind me. He sat at his desk, going through what looked like that day's copy of The Wall Street Journal.
"Oh, hey, son," he replied, putting down the paper and removing his reading glasses.
I sat on a chair opposite him, diving right into the subject. "Emmett and I were thinking about going to a sports bar to watch the playoffs tonight. Are you interested? I think Jasper's also coming."
"Yeah, sure," he responded as his surprise quickly morphed into genuine interest. "I could use some quality time with my sons. Where exactly are we going?"
I shrugged noncommittally. "Can't remember the bar's name, but Emmett's going to pick you up around seven."
"What about Isabella? You're not leaving her home alone, are you?" he inquired, concerned.
I chuckled, shaking my head at him, although it pleased me that he was taking an interest in my wife and unborn child. "Of course not, Dad. Alice and her friend Angela are staying with her."
"Good, good," he replied with a chuckle of his own. He ran a hand through his graying hair, and I couldn't help but notice a few worry lines that hadn't been there before. His desk phone rang, and he answered it promptly. "Yes, Lucy?" He listened for a few seconds, his eyebrows rising with each processed word. "Yes, yes, send her in."
"Her?" I asked as he hung up, immediately thinking it was my mother.
"Karen Young is here to see me," Dad clarified, his eyes large with astonishment. "I haven't seen her in ten years."
Before I could answer, the door to the office opened and Lucy ushered in my father's unexpected visitor. Karen Young was an old family friend. She was in her mid-fifties, had beautiful, red hair, and a pair of hypnotic, almost-gold eyes. She was dressed impeccably in a peach colored dress and cream overcoat; practically unchanged since the last time I'd seen her, many years back.
"Carlisle, Edward," she greeted us with a kiss on the cheek. "I'm sorry to drop in unannounced."
"You're always welcome here, Karen," my father said, and I had to suppress a smile at his lingering gaze on her. Karen Young was more beautiful and gracious than a lot of women half her age.
I wondered what she was doing back in Chicago. She'd left the country after her husband's death, and none of us had heard much about her ever since. All we knew was that she'd gone to London to live with her daughter and son-in-law. And now she was here, seeking my father's advice on some legal matter, no doubt. Interesting.
"I hope I'm not interrupting." She gazed at me questioningly.
"Not at all," I told her with a reassuring smile. "In fact, I was just leaving. Dad, I'll see you later."
"Sure." Dad nodded, motioning for Karen to have a seat. "Please."
"Karen, nice to see you," I said as a farewell.
"You too, Edward." She smiled kindly as she sat on the indicated chair.
As I walked out and passed by Lucy's vacated desk, I contemplated Karen's visit. Was she really here on business or were her motives more personal? Maybe she'd found out about my mother's antics and was here to discuss them. I hoped not. The last thing we needed was other people mingling in our family affairs.
A couple of hours later, I was home. Lately, I'd made a habit of leaving work earlier so I could spend more time with Isabella. In my absence, Susan, or Kate, and sometimes Angela, kept a vigilant eye on her. She was never alone, and wouldn't be at least until she had Matthew. Even then, I was seriously considering hiring a nanny. Of course, I had no intention of stealing away Isabella's experience as a first time mom, but I didn't want her to feel overwhelmed either. Soon she would have to juggle both her roles as a mom as well as a student, and I wanted to make the transition as smooth as I could.
Isabella and Angela were in the living room, eating popcorn and watching a movie, with the lights off. Susan was in the kitchen making dinner, and Alice had yet to arrive. I went straight for the master bedroom to take a shower and change clothes.
As I stepped out of the shower, the girls' incessant giggles caught my attention. After putting on jeans and a light sweater, I went to join them, only to realize they were watching a movie starring Ryan Gosling. I had to refrain from rolling my eyes at them. Later, Alice arrived, and the four of us had dinner. I had to sit through an entire half-hour meal, listening to Angela's praise of the "God-like" actor. When I couldn't take it anymore, I grabbed my coat and made a hasty exit.
"Ladies, I'm off," I announced, leaning down to give Isabella a light kiss.
"Be good," she said playfully.
"Always am," I replied in kind.
Almost an hour later, I was surrounded by testosterone, which was a nice change from the estrogen-filled atmosphere at home. I raised my beer, taking a long draw, my eyes trained on the huge flat screen where the game was just starting.
"Man, look at that chick's skirt," Jasper commented. "What in the hell is she doing dressed like that in a bar packed with hormonal men?"
We all looked in unison, my attention shifting from the screen to said woman. She had on one of those short leather skirts that could make a pole dancer blush. The fact that she was leaning over the bar, as she flirted with the bartender, didn't help either.
"What do you think she's doing, Jas?" Emmett's entertained reply made me chuckle. "She's looking to hook up."
"She looks vulgar," Jasper stated with distaste.
"Yeah... reminds me of your assistant, Vicky." Emmett waggled his eyebrows in my direction.
"Don't mention her," I said flatly. Honestly, I couldn't wait for the opportunity to get rid of her.
Emmett laughed like the obnoxious prick he was. "That woman would suck your dick like a popsicle if you let her."
"Gross, Em." Jasper's nose wrinkled. I simply decided to ignore him. If only Isabella could hear him...
Dad shook his head, looking something between amused and horrified. "I didn't need to hear that, son."
"What, Dad? You know I have a filthy mouth."
"When Rosalie's not around. You wouldn't even dream of speaking like that in front of her," I said acidly.
"Not true," he denied vehemently.
"Yeah, it is. Admit it; she wears your balls on a chain around her neck, you fucking pussy."
He flipped me the middle finger, and I had to laugh at that. I'd managed to piss him off.
"Boys, settle down," Dad said complacently, motioning for the waitress to bring him another beer.
"I need to get a new car," I changed the subject.
"What for?" Jasper asked.
"For when the baby comes. I was thinking something bigger; maybe a Mercedes SUV. I like the ML550."
Both Emmett and Jasper nodded approvingly. "Nice design, great engine, not too expensive." Emmett's eyes glowed passionately. He was an enthusiastic Mercedes lover.
"Yeah, I saw one in black the other day when I was leaving work. It's a nice car, man," Jasper said.
"I was meaning to ask," Dad cut in as the waitress placed his beer in front of him. "Did you speak to Jenks about the contract for the house?"
I grabbed some peanuts from a bowl, popping one into my mouth. "Yeah, he's working on it."
Emmett grinned knowingly. "Dad showed me some pictures. That is one heck of a home you're buying. I bet Bella loves it."
"She does." I smiled.
"What about you?" Jasper wanted to know.
"Yeah, it's great," I replied sincerely. "I can't wait to start working on it. I want to add a pool."
"Alice and I looked at a few houses but couldn't find anything."
"Look at baby brother being all grown up," Emmett teased, slapping him on the back. "Alice has you so fucking whipped; doesn't she?"
Jasper sighed heavily. "I'm going to start ignoring you now."
"Oh, come on. That's how big brothers are."
Emmett laughed, ruffling his overgrown hair. "No, you little shit; I just like teasing you."
Jasper batted his hand away, shoving his raised "fuck off" finger in his big brother's face. "Tease this."
Dad groaned, and we all laughed. I wanted to ask him about his private conversation with Karen, but refrained. Some other time maybe.
It was now time for the boys to relax and watch some playoffs.
~~ 0 ~~
Thursday, January 24th, I woke up to Isabella's insistent nudging. With a low groan of protest, I cracked open one eye, only to be met with the bright glare of the digital clock. The little red numbers read 1:45 a.m., and I sighed, closing my eyes again.
"Edward," Isabella whispered furiously.
"Mmmm," I murmured sleepily, trying to focus on the sound of her voice. The wool comforter was still wrapped around me snuggly, and for a few seconds, I fell back into a light slumber.
"Edward, get up!" she said more urgently, hitting my shoulder.
"What is it?" I turned towards her, pushing back my annoyance at being jolted awake in the middle of the night.
Her expression immediately catapulted me into alertness. "I think my water just broke."
"Shit!" I exclaimed; jumping to my feet and staring at her, horrified.
"Help me up, I need to go to the bathroom," she demanded, holding out her hand. I grabbed it, gently pulling her to a standing position.
Her pajamas and the bed linens were soaked, and I steeled myself, trying hard not to panic. Fuck me! I was definitely not prepared for this. I mean, I wanted to finally meet Matthew, but this was extremely overwhelming. And to think it was only the beginning...
In my haste to take her to the bathroom, I managed to grab my phone from the nightstand and dial security.
"What are you doing?" Isabella asked, breathing through her nose.
"Calling Dave to let him know we're leaving," I murmured, giving her a concerned look. Dave and Aaron were our new ex-army bodyguards, courtesy of Jenks. They worked 24 hour shifts, and tonight, Dave was on duty.
"Bring me some clothes and grab the bag I packed for the baby; it's in the walk-in closet," Isabella ordered, starting to remove her pajamas.
"Mr. Cullen," Dave picked up, his voice gritty with sleep.
"Dave, we're leaving for the hospital; my wife's water broke," I announced, and could hear him scramble out of bed with a loud thud. He was just a few feet away in one of the guest bedrooms.
"I'll be right out, sir."
I grabbed Isabella's bag from the closet, placing it in the middle of the bed as I continued to search for clothes. I took out the first comfortable-looking things I could get my hands on: a pair of pink sweatpants and one of my oversized hoodies. When I stepped back into the bathroom, she was sitting on the toilet, naked, her arms around her belly.
"Should you be doing that? I asked apprehensively.
She gave me an amused look, although her chest was heaving. "What, peeing?"
"Yeah, I mean..." I trailed off, feeling stupid in my childish concern.
"I'm not going to drop the baby into the toilet, Edward." She let out a breathless chuckle, beckoning me. "Help me get dressed."
I helped her back up, kissing her forehead. "Are you freaking out?"
"A little," she admitted. "Are you?"
"Yeah, can't you tell?"
Before she could answer, her face morphed into a grimace as she leaned forward. "Shiiiit."
"Maybe we should hurry up," I suggested, feeling the calm I was trying to force on myself slipping away.
A few minutes later, we were exiting the apartment with Dave's massive form trailing behind us. Once in the car, he climbed behind the wheel, and I helped Isabella in the backseat.
"Easy, baby," I said in a soft voice, bending at the waist to help her fold her feet into the car. When she was settled, I closed her door and rounded the car to the other side, sliding in beside her.
She tapped my knee, her breath labored. "Call Dr. Clark."
I did, and not even ten minutes later, we were pulling up in the hospital's parking lot. Luckily for us, Dr. Clark was working the night shift in ER, so when we stepped into the maternity ward, she was already waiting for us, armed with a wheelchair.
"George will take you to your room," she addressed Isabella, gesturing towards the male nurse waiting patiently near the admissions desk. "You'll be given a hospital gown to change into, so please do. I'll be with you shortly." Then she motioned me over to the admissions desk, pushing some papers in front of me. "Read these then sign them. She'll be in room 405."
I frowned, looking down at the paperwork in front of me and trying not to focus on Isabella being wheeled away. A few minutes later, I was done, and one of the nurses led me to my wife's room. She was sat up in bed, wearing a hideous hospital gown and a concentrated expression on her face.
"Twenty minutes apart, you say?" a petite nurse asked, checking her watch.
"Yeah." Isabella nodded. "Maybe a bit less."
"Hey," I said, smiling at her as I stepped into the room.
"Hey." She reached out for me, and I grabbed her hand, kissing the back of it.
"I'll be back," the nurse announced with a reassuring smile before departing.
"This is it," Isabella whispered, her eyes glowing with happiness. "Matthew's coming."
I leaned down to kiss her forehead. "Yeah; I can't wait to meet him."
The actual birth scared me a bit, but I wasn't about to tell her that; she needed my moral support. Instead, I took out my phone and occupied myself with placing a few calls: to Kate, Angela, Dad, Jasper, and Emmett.
Five minutes passed, then ten... twenty...
Dr. Clark came to check in on us a couple of times, making sure everything was going as it should have been. She was watching Isabella closely due to the pre-eclampsia and said things were progressing quite quickly, but that all looked good.
I was both excited and a nervous wreck. Isabella kept walking up and down the room under the nurse's close scrutiny. I massaged her feet, brought her water when she needed it, and practically did everything she asked of me.
Minutes turned to hours, and the waiting began to take its toll on both of us. I never would've guessed the whole process of giving birth was going to be so... strenuous.
At about 7:00 a.m. Isabella's contractions were mere seconds apart. She was propped up on her hands and knees on the bed, having opted for that birthing position, breathing heavily. I stood beside the bed, rubbing her back and doing the little I could to soothe her. Every once in a while she would let out a pained whimper, followed by a comment along the lines of "okay, I'm done; let's go home" or "I changed my mind; I don't want to do this anymore."
Nurses were fretting, constantly watching her blood pressure, which thankfully was holding its own; Dr. Clark's pager beeped incessantly, not to mention that my phone kept vibrating in my pocket, and for a brief moment I felt completely overcome by the situation.
And then the most amazing thing happened... After one final, hard push, a shrill cry filled the room, and everyone let out a sigh of relief. Isabella fell against the pillows, her face red from the exertion. Despite what she'd been through during her relatively short but intense five-hour labor, she managed to smile. I was in awe of her.
"You did it, baby," I whispered in a hoarse voice, kissing and stroking her hair over and over. "I'm so proud of you."
"Here he is," Dr. Clark announced, walking over to me with Matthew bundled up in blue cloth. "Mr. Cullen, meet your beautiful baby boy."
My hands trembled as I held my son for the first time. He was so small and fragile. I looked down at him, and immediately felt this incredible surge of unconditional love and protectiveness flow through me. I was mesmerized. It was amazing how just a moment could change your life forever. In that instant, I knew I loved him more than I did myself, and that I would do anything for him. I was a changed man. I was a father.
A feeling of completeness rocked me to my very core, and I had to fight the tears that were threatening to form. I could hardly believe that after years of waiting, my most ardent desire had finally come to fruition. I had a child; a son. Matthew was real, and I was holding him in my arms. Our family was complete. The elation I felt couldn't be measured into words. I could've died that very moment, and I would've died a happy man with a stupid grin frozen on my face.
"Let me see him, Daddy," Isabella said from the bed, reaching out for him.
I placed Matthew in her arms with a reluctant sigh. I already felt greedy for the time I had with him.
Isabella smiled down at him tiredly. "Wow, he looks so much like you."
"He does?" I asked, unable to hide the pride in my voice.
"Yeah." She caressed his tiny head. "He's going to be the spitting image of you, I can tell."
"We'll have to wait and see until he grows up a little." I sat on the edge of the bed, placing my arm around her shoulders, and we both looked down at our son with adoration.
"My little Matthew," she whispered, kissing his little fists. He yawned, angling his head towards Isabella.
"I can't believe this is actually happening," I confessed, shaking my head.
Isabella looked at me, her eyes full of unshed tears. "I love you."
I could feel my heart teetering on the edge of exploding with emotion. "I love you, too, baby. Both of you."
~~ 0 ~~
Two days later, we were allowed to take Matthew home. Isabella was relieved. She couldn't wait to sleep in her own bed, and I was looking forward to spending some quality time with my son and wife. Constantly being surrounded by medical staff and family members wasn't exactly my idea of peace and quiet. I craved being able to pick up my son and sit in a rocking chair without being interrupted by some nurse or an overly eager Emmett. Kate had also been around almost 24/7, making my time with Matthew quite limited. Everyone wanted to hold him, so between nurses, Kate, and the rest of the family, Isabella and I felt deprived of our little one.
While Jess helped Isabella pack Matthew's things, Emmett and I stood near the window, discussing the upcoming renovations of our new home.
"Almost two million, huh?" he breathed incredulously. "Sheesh."
"Yeah, but it's worth every penny," I stated with conviction. "I'll admit the contractor I hired is pretty expensive, but I want the house to look completely transformed by the time he's done with it. I've seen his work and I think he's going to do one hell of a job."
"That's a total of seven million."
I nodded. "Yeah."
"Well, I'm glad for you. And by the way, you look really happy."
I smiled. "I am happy."
He placed his large hand on my shoulder, giving it a light squeeze. "I like seeing you like this, bro."
Despite our many differences in the past, I believed him.
"I think we're done here," Isabella announced quietly.
Emmett turned around, grinning at her. "When can I come visit my nephew?"
She chuckled at his enthusiasm. "Anytime you want, Uncle Em."
"Not too soon, though," I added quickly, and Isabella threw me a disapproving look.
Emmett didn't seem bothered in the least. "Don't worry, I get it. Rose and I were desperate for some time alone with Jess when she was born."
Jess grinned at her dad. "Wasn't I the cutest baby?"
"Yes, you were, my little princess," he replied cheekily, holding his hand out to her.
She rolled her eyes at him, but snuggled into his side nonetheless. He kissed the top of her head, and Isabella let out a longing sigh.
"Time for us to go," Emmett said, stroking his daughter's long hair. "I have to take Jess to her dance classes."
Isabella smiled at their loving interaction. "Thanks for stopping by."
"Give Matthew a big kiss from me, Auntie B," Jess said playfully, causing Isabella to shake her head in amusement at the nickname.
"Will do, Jess."
They left, and I stepped towards Isabella, wrapping my arms around her middle. "Let's go home," I whispered in her hair. "With our son," I added reverently as I took in the marvel that was our Matthew.
She let out an eager groan. "Yes, let's. I can't wait to get a good night's sleep."
"I doubt you'll be able to get any uninterrupted sleep for a while," I teased. "Wailing times are coming."
She turned to me with a wide smile. "I know, but I'm going to love every second of it."
~~ 0 ~~
Later, as we reached my car, Aaron unlocked the trunk and placed our bags inside. I held the baby car seat carrier, where our son slept peacefully, and opened the passenger door with my free hand for Isabella to climb in.
"Edwaaaard," someone let out a guttural cry behind me. "You fucking cocksucker!"
I turned around just as Aaron stepped in front of me, blocking my view. "Hey, stop right there!"
I didn't need to see the person to realize it was James.
For the first time since hiring security, I was glad I'd had the common sense to listen to Jenks' advice.
"Isabella, take Matthew," I urged, placing the carrier in her lap and closing the door gently, trying not to wake up the baby. She started to say something, but I was already stepping around Aaron, finally coming face-to-face with James.
"I see you and your cunt of a wife had your fucking baby," he spat, the words coming out slurred as he swayed on his feet. "It's an ugly baby, by the way... looks exactly like you."
"What do you want, you asshole?" I gritted, starting to get really fucking mad at his audacity.
His face contorted into a hateful expression. "I want to shoot you between the eyes and rip your fucking limbs apart, that's what I want. What the fuck did you do to me?"
"I did what I should've done a long time ago," I replied, glaring at him. "This is what you get for messing with me."
"You think you can fuck with my life, huh? You motherfucker!" he yelled, outraged, starting to get red in the face. "I'm going to destroy you."
"Sir, keep your distance," Aaron warned, and I could tell he was getting tense.
James laughed mockingly. "You hired yourself a gorilla, you fucking pussy? Are you afraid of me or what?"
"Just ignore him, sir," Aaron advised wisely. "He's baiting you."
"I know that." I nodded, keeping my eyes on the lunatic in front of me. Suddenly, I had this sinking feeling that something horrible was about to happen. And yet, I couldn't seem to help myself. "You know what else I know, James?"
"Enlighten me," he gritted, his jaw clenched.
"I know you're a pathetic son of a bitch who got exactly what he deserved."
A diabolical grin appeared on his face. He looked like evil incarnate. "Oh yeah?"
I jutted out my chin in defiance. "Yeah."
"What about what you deserve, cuz?"
Before I could even process what was happening, he reached into his back pocket, drawing out a gun.
It was then Isabella's horrified scream reached my ears, and I stared in shock, unable to move.
A/N Please don't hate me? :D
Thank you for reading!