I was washing off my face when someone knocked on my door. I ran to open it, expecting Jake to be standing there, but it was my mother. She grabbed me into her arms and sobbed loudly. I guess my father told her. I let her hug me tightly and waited for her to back off so I could invite her inside.
She sat on my couch and shook her head as she stared at my face. "I never imagined Bella. You never showed any signs of abuse."
"I felt I did, and nobody noticed," I told her honestly.
"You were social and active in school activities. You were always going to the beach."
I winced at her unknowing words and wasn't sure if now was the time to talk about everything. I had emotions that were too close to the surface and I needed to keep things in check until I decided how to handle the information I just witnessed.
"Mom, when I was younger I didn't know who to trust. You were a teacher so I believe all teachers were good. It is hard to look back and understand our silence, but it was pain keeping us quiet too, along with shame. I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
"What can we do to help you recover from this," she asked.
"I got some help and all I need now is some space to put the things I learned into practice."
She nodded and pulled me into her arms again. I never heard the door open but when I looked up Jake was standing in the doorway. I couldn't look him in the eyes, so I turned back to my mom. "Get some sleep mom, its late."
She stood and walked over to hug Jake before telling us both good night. Jake came over to sit where she had just been and looked at me for a moment. I finally gave in and said harshly, "Did you bring anything to drug me with?"
He let his head fall back and he stared at the ceiling. "Nope, I have nothing to do tonight."
"You used me, Jake. You set me up to be your alibi and I stupidly testified to get you acquitted.
"Sam and I couldn't let it go. If we went to the cops they would find out about what happened to you guys. I didn't want to betray you."
"What if I walk into my house this instant and tell my father you did it," I said and watched for a reaction.
"Go ahead; there is nothing he can do. I was tried for the murder of John Banner and found not guilty, they can't try me again."
"So you got away with murder," I said and let my own head drop back too.
"Yep, I got away with killing that piece of shit. But now Sam has to worry until the baby is born to know if it is his or Banners."
I felt the tears stream down my face at the thought of a sliver of that man living on. I didn't know how Emily could stand the thought of possibly carrying his child. I asked the last question I wanted to know. "So Sam hired Edward?"
"Yes, he didn't realize Cullen would be given an alternate assignment by his firm. We chose him because he just passed the bar. He would be inexperienced and weak. I already had an alibi so I wasn't worried."
"Sam can be charged," I pointed out but Jake shook his head. "He knew nothing about my plan."
"Edward could give your name or Sam's to the firm."
"No, we had a conversation. He'll stay quiet if I keep you safe, but he also told me I have to give up all hope of having a life with you. I will only do that if you tell me we don't have a chance, so what is it Bella?"
I tried to think of the best way to phrase things and I finally just let it burst out of me. "I love you, Jake, as the best friend I have ever had. But I love Edward as the man I want to have a life with. Maybe it is because he isn't from here or tied to my past memories and struggles."
Jake nodded and took a moment to think before looking at me. "Okay, Edward and I came up with a plan to get you out of the middle of this. We need to marry so nobody can link you to Cullen."
"You don't have to do that," I told him. I knew Jake still had a relationship with Leah and I wasn't going to make him ruin everything just to keep me out of Edward's nightmare.
"Bella, we're going to do whatever it takes to fix this. I took Banner out and I'm going to clean up the mess I left."
"Is Edward scared?" I asked him quietly.
"Yes, this whole thing really freaked him out. I'm not sure what Charlie has in mind but it can't take too long or lawyer boy is going to crack."
I thought about how I found Edward and I was truly worried. He had a great life and a great family. People like John Banner didn't exist in his world and I pitied him and envied him at the same time. I didn't understand exactly what Eric was planning with his computer virus and assumed Edward would use the information to trade for his life. But what if they didn't make trades and continued to come after Edward.
"Hey," Jake said to me and I looked at his face, "Whatever it takes."
"Okay, whatever it takes," I repeated.
And the very next weekend I married Jacob Black. Everyone was at the wedding except Edward and Jordan. I was worried about Jordan when he dropped off the face of the earth. But his mother said he had taken a vacation and I had to hope it would end up being a good thing.
Jake took my father to the tunnel and showed him what I couldn't. I spent most evenings in Edward's cell and Jake spent nights with Leah in Edward's old room. We were living a nightmare of a different kind and Eric kept telling me he was close to releasing his virus. Mike had made contact with Heidi and was talking with her daily.
Everything was going fine until someone showed up at the jail looking for Edward. I was saying Goodnight and luckily standing outside the cell when a man dressed in a suit walked in and introduced himself as Demitri, counsel provided by Edward's firm.
I glanced back and nodded with my head toward the second cell. I left quickly and hoped my presence didn't make them suspicious. I hurried home to Jake and pounded on his door.
Leah answered and gave me a glare. "I need Jake," I said and felt my hands shaking.
She opened her mouth to say something hateful and I hurried over to where Jake was standing.
"A lawyer was sent to defend Edward," I said in a rush. "I'm sure he is supposed to try to figure everything out. You're both in danger Jake."
"I'm not worried, unless you think Cullen would hand me over to get himself out of trouble?"
"He wouldn't do that, Jake, but now I have to stay away from him," I pointed out and noticed how Jake smiled a bit. "Stop it," I said harshly.
"Eric has everything handled; Mike sent the first marker yesterday. Angela sent one to a bank in Switzerland. They opened it because it came from a police department. Four of the ten are in place and then he'll send the film."
"How much longer, I don't want the new lawyer to figure out Edward isn't really being investigated and let them know in Italy?"
"Two days, Bella. Just hold tightly for two days."
I nodded and walked back to my room just as my phone rang. It was Angela and I answered with trepidation. I felt like something ominous was coming and I was hesitant to hear it.
"Hey, Ang," I answered.
"Hi, Bella. Have you heard from Jordan?"
"No, why, are you worried?" I asked already knowing I was.
"I miss him, I guess. I was just getting to know him again and he bolted."
"I think it is a good sign, I mean he never left the house and now he leaves on a vacation by himself. I hope he comes back healthy."
"Have you talked to Jess?" she asked, and I groaned.
"No, I really need to but it feels really good to have some room to breathe."
"You need to go see her, Bella. She is really feeling awful and it would help if you talked it out."
"Yeah, you're right, I'll go see her."
I was anxious about Edward and needed a distraction, I wasn't sure Jessica was the one I needed. I drove to her house and knocked on the door. I was stunned when Tyler opened the door. He looked a bit irritated that I was standing on the doorstep and I looked past him to see Jessica in a sexy nightgown.
Our eyes locked and then grew wide in unison. I stammered awkwardly and finally began moving backwards from the door. Tyler smirked at me and I covered my mouth to keep my laughter contained. I jumped in my car and left quickly. I felt full of hope that this would have an end and we would turn out happy and fulfilled after all.
I drove home and took a long bath before falling asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night with my hands needing desperately to be creating something. I went to my studio and began working on a sculpture of Edward. I was cutting into the large block of clay when my father walked in and smiled at me.
"You're up late," I said, and he nodded. We sat quietly and he watched my hands working with purpose.
"I'm not sure where you got the talent, Bella, but I am really proud of what you create."
"Thanks, Dad. I think I get my creative ideas from mom and my ability to harness it into something tangible from you. Are you disappointed I never went to college?"
"No," he said in only a whisper and shook his head softly, "I've always been proud of you."
I knew we were talking about something so much deeper than my art and I felt the subject was easier to broach when we talked in generalities.
"Mom was always so idealistic and you were so realistic. I guess I didn't want to ruin anything for either of you."
"I worried about providing and felt a small town offered a tradeoff. I didn't make as much as a city cop, but I thought Forks would be a good place to raise kids," he said and looked away as he talked softly.
"There is no such thing as a safe place, dad, not anymore. Computers have made it easy for sick people to remain anonymous. And money has turned companies greedy for an easy dollar. Kids aren't safe when sick people can hide behind large corporations."
"So what's the answer?" he asked.
"You do the best you can."
"I can't start bending the law to fit my own definition of legal. As much as I wish I could have been the one who killed Banner, I must continue to look for his killer," he said and I wondered if he could tell I knew who it was.
"I know, dad, but I won't help you. I didn't help Edward and I won't tell you if I ever find out."
He nodded and swallowed loudly. "I heard a lawyer came to see Edward. Does he need me to really file charges?"
"I haven't talked to him. Why don't you go see him," I suggested.
"I can't. His lawyer would have to be with him if I question him."
"Who can I send?"
"Jake, he can claim Edward is still his lawyer and he needs time with him."
I smiled and turned back to my sculpture. He stood after a bit and put his hand on my shoulder. I turned and kissed his fingers lightly and he walked back to the house. I worked until I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and finally went up to bed.
I woke up the next morning to loud knocking on my door. I tried to ignore it but it only grew louder. I finally pulled myself out of bed and crawled over to open the door. Angela was standing there with a terrified look on her face. She pushed past me and hurried into my room before turning to face me.
"What's wrong," I asked with fear.
"Bella, I got hold of Jordan," she said with a shaking voice.
"Is he okay, where is he?" I asked, and took her hands to brace myself for the answer.
"He's in Italy," she said and my heart dropped in my chest. "He met with Edward's firm."
I stared at Angela as I tried to understand what Jordan would be doing in Italy. Was he turning in Edward or telling them about our failed attempt to kill Banner ourselves? I couldn't think straight and Angela looked so worried.
"Did he tell you why?" I asked with a dry mouth.
"He said he knew how to fix it all, that was all he kept saying over and over again. I am so worried; Bella, Jordan isn't strong enough to fight others yet."
"Shit, I have to tell Edward," I said as I grabbed my keys and ran out the door.
I showed up at the Jail just as his lawyer arrived and I had to force myself to sit for over an hour until he left. I ran back to the small cell and Edward could see my panic. "Jordan went to Italy and talked with your firm."
"I know, Demetri just told me. He's asked for the opportunity to speak to the board tomorrow night at a meeting."
"I have no idea. Is he strong enough emotionally to do this?" he asked and I could tell he was very worried about all of us. I only shook my head, having no idea what Jordan had in mind.
I finally looked into Edward's eyes and said, "I'm going to Italy."
He acted like he expected the words to come out of my mouth. He didn't react at all or show any surprise. He only let out a long breath of air. "Okay, get me out of here, I'm going with you."
"No, it would be too dangerous," I gasped. The last time he went to Italy he came back as a shell and felt his future was over, I couldn't risk losing him completely.
"No, it's not. I will say they dropped the charges and I am still trying to find the killer. They won't suspect anything differently. I am not letting you go there alone, Bella."
I could tell he had his mind set and it wouldn't do any good to argue with him. I just had to figure out how to get him out of jail without Charlie knowing what I was planning to do. I was racking my brain as I struggled to come up with a plan when suddenly Edward was standing next to me. I startled and looked around the room for who it was that opened the cell.
He laughed loudly and said, "We were trying to keep others out, not me locked in."
I threw my arms around his neck and kissed him passionately. I couldn't imagine living without Edward and everything in my life was pretend until the day I could be with him again. I hoped going to Italy would bring that day closer.
We stopped by my place for my passport and some clothes and then drove to Seattle. Edward stopped by his house and only Esme was home. She looked at her son with a sense of relief. He had been locked away in a jail cell, but still looked better than how I found him three weeks ago.
"Are you going away?" she asked him as she looked at his bag.
"I'm taking Bella on a little trip," he smiled and kissed my cheek. If only it was that simple and I could take him to Italy where we could be alone and romantic. We could stay at a little bed and breakfast and block the world from our minds as we learned to be intimate without thinking of sick, vile things.
"I want to apologize for the permanent marker I put on the walls, it was a really immature thing to do," I said shamefully.
"It's okay, I was just stunned at how…detailed, your art work was," she said with a laugh and I felt my face redden with embarrassment. "And I have a nice sewing room now."
Edward rolled his eyes and kissed his mother goodbye before taking my hand and pulling me from the house.
We flew out during the night and snuggled up together to sleep until we landed in New York. We were able to watch the sun rise from the airport waiting area. Edward stared at the growing light and turned to look at me.
I smiled as he touched my face with his fingertips. "Bella, I wish I was stronger, like you."
I shook my head and took hold of his hand to kiss his fingers. "I've had years to come to terms with this, you just recently learned about it."
"My God, kids, who does this to children?" he said as tears filled his eyes.
"When it seems like just an image on a screen it is easy to remain detached. I think Jordan wants to show them he is a real person and hope they have compassion."
"They won't," Edward said quickly and I nodded. I understood the drive for money was more vital than the understanding of a young man too afraid to join the world. Jordan was trying to do something brave for the first time in his life, but he chose the wrong people to confront.
"Will they hurt him?" I asked Edward and wasn't sure I wanted to know the answer or not.
"I don't know, we just have to stop him so we don't find out."
We boarded the plane and snuggled together as we talked softly. I was so worried about Emily and even Jake. He seemed unfazed by what he did, but I knew that couldn't be the case. "Did Jake talk to you about how he did it?" I asked.
Edward nodded and refused to say anything more. I knew the stuff from the trial. Banner had been found in his bed with his throat sliced, but I didn't know if he had been sleeping or if Jake let him know it was coming. I also wasn't sure if he did it for all of Banner's victims or for only Emily.
"I think Jake's heritage helps him deal with it. He is next in line to run the tribe and Emily was hurt under his watch. He feels justified in handing out the punishment. I would never tell him he was wrong, not after what I saw," Edward said with a tight jaw.
"Edward, what was the hardest part for you to see?"
He took a deep breath and finally said, "The empty look in the eyes of all the kids. They are dead inside, Bella, and what joy could anyone find looking at children who are empty."
"Edward, look at me," I said and waited for his eyes to find mine. "I'm not dead inside anymore. You brought me to life, you did, and I love you for it."
"I'll never hurt you," he said adamantly and I chuckled.
"Sure you will, you just won't mean to do it, and that is what I will always remember."
"I haven't been able to become aroused since seeing those files," he admitted with a hushed voice and his head hung low.
I leaned my head against his and whispered, "Of course not, I've been in Brazil."
He looked up with just his eyes and I winked at him, causing him to smile. My heart pounded in my chest at the sight and I wondered if I would ever be able to affect him the way he affected me. I leaned in and kissed him softly, just barely running my lips across his. We were under a blanket so I let my hand wander up his leg and felt his hand suddenly grabbing mine.
His expression was so sad and I finally understood how Jake had felt all those years trying to help me. I tried to smile but my heart was hurting, for him, and for me, and for us.
It was late in the day when we arrived in Italy. It took forever to make it out of customs and the traffic was unbelievable. We crawled two inches and then the driver would hit his horn and we would crawl forward again. Edward kept looking at his watch and I could tell he was growing nervous.
We needed to stop Jordan from attending the meeting; it wouldn't do us any good to speak to him afterwards. I felt panic rising in me and Edward finally stated the obvious. "We're not going to make it."
"Do you think he would come at the beginning of the meeting, I mean, maybe they gave him an assigned time to show up after they all talked first?" I offered.
"Maybe," Edward said and began looking forward to see how much further we had to travel. A large truck stopped in front of us totally obscuring our view and he turned to look at me. "Can you run from here, about two miles?"
"With luggage?" I asked.
"No, we'll have the bags taken to the hotel," he said so I nodded.
We made arrangements with the driver and jumped from the cab to make our way through the congested sidewalks. I finally stepped into the roadway along the walk to avoid all the slow shoppers and we began to run. Cars were honking at us, but I ignored them as we picked up our pace.
Edward pointed to a large high rise in front of us and I began looking for any signs of Jordan. I even began calling out his name as I ran, hoping he would hear us if he didn't see us.
I felt my phone vibrate and pulled it from my pocket to see Jordan was calling. I yelled for Edward to stop and answered the phone, "Jordan, thank God, I'm in Italy and I need to see you."
"I know, I can see you," he said and I spun around to look down both walkways.
"What are you doing, you can't go into that board meeting," I said in a panic.
"Bella, you were always my friend, you were the only one who came to see me. I want you to be happy," he said with a strong voice. He no longer used the sad, soft whisper and I knew it meant he was resolute with what he had planned.
"Jordan, Angela is worried, she really likes you," I said to give him hope.
"She has plenty of men, she doesn't need me."
"You're wrong; the other men don't care about her. She deserves someone who thinks she is special." I was growing desperate with things to say and felt like he was telling me goodbye. "What are you planning to do?"
"I'm going to stop them, for you Bella, I'm giving you a chance for a great life with Edward," he said and I began to cry.
"We're already stopping them Jordan, we came up with a plan to lock them away."
"That won't stop them; it will just anger them further. I want you to live for me, Bella. Make something beautiful to remember me by, okay?"
"Jordan, no," I screamed and held my arm out for Edward to keep me standing.
"They're calling for me, I have to go," he said and hung up the phone.
I looked at the large building in front of me, standing all alone at the end of the dead end road and ran toward it. I had only gone a few paces when the ground threw me into the air as the oxygen was sucked from the area around me. A loud deafening explosion rocked my entire body and made my ears begin to ring as every sound became muffled.
I landed in the middle of the road as dust and mortar rained down on me. Car alarms began to sound and the silence slowly grew into wailing from all directions. I crawled on my hands and knees toward the crumbling building, but someone pulled me back and into their arms.
I fought the restraint as I made animal sounds, unable to form intelligible words. I was clawing at the air trying to get hold of the smoking ruble in front of me. Somebody grabbed my face and pulled me to look at him. He was talking but my ears were too damaged to hear him. I only recognized the face as Edward's.
He was talking forcefully and pulled me onto my feet before taking my hand and running in the opposite direction. I let him lead and stumbled as I tried so hard to believe this was all a dream. Jordan couldn't travel to Italy; he was home, in his room, in the darkness, waiting for me to visit him. It wasn't Jordan inside the building sending its occupants to hell where they belonged. He was good, and kind, and didn't deserve to die along with those evil people.
We made it around the corner and away from the dust before Edward stopped running and pulled me to his body. I grabbed him forcefully and buried my face in his chest as I cried out in horror. When he brought my face back with his hands I noticed the blood on his shirt. He tore off a sleeve from his clothing and dabbed my bloody nose before turning my head to check my ringing ears.
Other's begun forming a circle around us and offering assistance. When someone took hold of my head I pulled away and grabbed for Edward. He was talking and running his hand down my hair, but all I heard was the roar of the explosion. The one who took my friend, the one my friend set off, to give me my love.
I was lying in a tub of water as Edward knelt by my side and washed the soot off of me. I could hear much better and only a muffled, distant hum remained. I felt numb and I had used all the tears I had left in my body for Jordan. Banner took one last thing from me.
"Bella," Edward said softly, "I am so sorry. I am sorry for driving into Forks and turning your life upside down."
I looked at his eyes and shook my head, "You found it upside down; you didn't cause it."
"Tell me what you need," he said with his chin resting on the porcelain bath.
I stared at him in disbelief, wondering why he would need to even ask. I needed him. I needed him to love me, and want me, and keep me. I needed to know my friend didn't die in vain and I needed to know my marriage would not be one of pretense.
I finally found my voice and said something totally different from what I was thinking. "I need you to stop seeing the abused girl when you look at me. I don't want to be her anymore, but I see her every time I look in your eyes."
He closed his eyes to block my access to his soul and turned to lean his back against the tub. "Edward," I said with a shaky voice. "There is so much more to me, can't you see beyond the files?"
"Bella, you don't understand. It is me I am having trouble coming to terms with. I used to leer at girls in school, seeing them as nothing more than objects of my desire. In college and law school they were just a way to forget about the tedious school work. I imagined their bodies to relieve my tension without giving thought to who they were or what life gave them. It is my actions I struggle with."
I went to speak but he continued on. "I have the hardest time thinking about having a daughter someday, I want children and how can I keep her safe? It terrifies me that young men like me will come anywhere close to her."
I smiled and felt my heart jump at the mention of children. I longed to be the mother of his babies and I needed to find a way to comfort his troubled mind. "Edward, my experience was not typical; aside from being killed it was the worst scenario a parent can imagine. But look at me, I'm here, I'm alive and I want a man to love me and parent with me. I won't ever forget, but I'll learn to find the good in my life and concentrate on that. I will know what to look for in my daughter's behavior and what to teach my sons so they can be respectful."
"Is it that easy?" he asked and finally turned to look at me.
"No, but I love you enough to try. I'm a woman Edward, and I love you. I want you to love me as a man loves a woman. It didn't work with Jake because he was trying to make me desire sex, I don't want just sex, I want to give myself totally to the man I love."
He stood and began removing his clothing before joining me in the bath. I sat forward and let him scoot in behind me before resting against his chest. He held me tightly and sat his chin on my shoulder. "I was always overly sensitive, it drove my brother crazy," he confessed.
"I think you are perfect," I said with a smile.
"I think you are perfect, too," he answered and for the first time in my life I actually felt that way.
We had to add hot water often as we simply held each other in the tub, connecting in an intimate way without it being sexual. When he finally left to let me wash my hair I felt hopeful we could work out all of our problems. I entered the bedroom with a towel around my head and one around my body, to find him talking on the phone. He held up his hand for mine and I sat next to him.
"It's Eric," he mouthed and I nodded. I was glad I would not have to be the one to share the news about Jordan. I wasn't sure I could face Angela and tell her. He finally hung up and reached for the brush in my hand.
I removed the towel from my head and he brushed my hair as he spoke. "Eric got the virus sent off before the meeting. He said it hit the marker Mike sent to Heidi and was moving around to other sites."
"What are you going to do with the information?" I asked since we didn't need it to save him now.
"I'm calling the CIA," he said and I felt a knot in my throat.
"Did you tell everyone…what happened?"
"Yes," he said softly and didn't elaborate. "Why is Eric working as a logger? He has a lot of talent as a programmer."
"I'm sure it is the thought of going away to school without Lauren or maybe he doesn't believe he has talent."
Edward was quiet and I finally turned to look at him. He smiled and said, "I think I have a business proposition to make him."
He shrugged and went back to brushing my hair. I sat with my eyes closed and he used the blow dryer, thinking it was funny to give me huge frizzy hair. I grabbed a rubber band and pulled it into a ponytail before climbing into bed next to him.
He moved to his side and snuggled up tightly to me. "I'm sorry about Jordan," he said and I kissed his forehead.
"I know, but thank you. I am happy you are free. See if you can choose a better firm next time," I teased.
"I did just pass the bar," he added and we both laughed loudly.
I felt his arm move across my stomach and he pulled me tightly into his body. "You are so warm," he whispered and I moaned into his neck. "And soft," he added as his hand moved down the side of my thigh.
"I love the feel of your hands," I said with shallow breath.
He took hold of my leg and pulled it up to his hip and I let out a soft gasp. I felt him begin to shake and I moved my head back to see his face. His eyes were shut tightly and his breathing was very labored.
"Edward," I whispered, "Look at me."
He opened his eyes and stared at me with gentle eyes, loving eyes, wanting eyes. I nodded, giving him permission to move forward. His hand ran to my backside and lightly touched where I needed him the most. I felt his body respond and I smiled up at him.
He rolled over onto me, keeping my knee in his hand and his body shuddered when he made contact with mine. I took a deep breath as the most overwhelming feeling settled in me. I was trying to move slowly and tenderly but I was desperate in my need for him.
He was trying to remain contained and I could feel the stress it was putting on him. "God, Edward, I need you so badly," I said loudly.
He descended upon my mouth and every concern or hesitation fell away. He was consuming me and I was willingly allowing it. I couldn't focus on his hands or his body; I was overcome by the emotion of loving him so completely. We were whimpering with the sensation of love pouring from us, love we had kept controlled and at bay for absolutely no plausible reason I could remember.
We were both gasping for air, but keeping our mouths on each other's flesh for fear of pulling away. He began grunting as his body refused to be held back and the sound sent me crashing over the edge. I screamed out loudly with emotion I never knew possible. I had never experienced anything this strong and I wanted to feel this sensation forever.
He tensed and yelled out as his body gave everything it had to me. He was mine and every part of him I wanted. I never once gave a second thought to protection or future plans. What we just did was exactly what we both needed, nothing to dull the feeling or promises to add unneeded pressure.
He was panting heavily and I circled my arms around him and held on tightly. "I love you," I whispered and meant it with everything I had.
"God, Bella, I never thought it was possible to love you so deeply without worrying. You amaze me," he said and kissed me several times.
"I wish we could stay in this room forever, and leave the world behind," I said and felt tears forming in my eyes.
"It doesn't need to be this room, as long as I am with you, it doesn't matter where," he said as he stared into my eyes.
"Let's go to Brazil," I suggested. "We don't have anything pressing at home. Let's go to your dad's place and be together, just you and me."
"Anything that makes you happy," he said with a smile. "But we do have one pressing matter I would like to get a jump on."
"What?" I asked and began to worry just a bit.
"You are another man's wife," he pointed out and I laughed. "Don't laugh; I hate the thought of it."
"I'll see if I can find someone who just passed the bar to help me get an annulment," I teased and it was his turn to laugh.
We spent the entire next day in that bed and learned all about each other's bodies. By evening we were hungry and headed out to find some food. We purposefully stayed far from the exploded building and concentrated on just being together.
We sat at an outdoor café eating pasta and bread when I noticed a small fountain with the image of a boy. I looked at the face and had to shake my head to get the image of Jordan off of the stone face. I knew at that moment what I would make to honor a friend so precious he gave his life for my happiness.
Edward and I stayed away for a solid month before returning home. Life was so wonderful it was hard to imagine all the pain we had experienced. He was anxious to begin looking for a job and I was anxious to get into my studio. We flew into Seattle and spent the night at Edward's house.
The entire family gathered and I loved having so many people around. Rose gave me a tight hug and whispered in my ear, "You've come out of the forest and into the light."
"Just like turning eight," I said and she gave me a squeeze.
Carlisle caught me in the kitchen alone and took hold of my arm. "I'm sorry about Jordan. I got a call from Angela and she is doing really well," he informed me.
"How about the others?" I asked, vowing I wouldn't bring the night down by hearing bad news, but my curiosity got the better of me.
"I call Mike often and I am really proud of his determination to stay clean. I think he is going to make it," he said with a smile and I smiled along with him.
"I have a job lead for Edward, but it is in Tacoma," he said and watched for my reaction.
"It's okay," I said to comfort him. "I'll go wherever life takes him."
That night as we lay in his bed I looked into his eyes and truly saw my future. I would spend forever with this man and I wanted to make it official as soon as possible. "Edward," I said with a huge smile and he gave me a wary look.
"Will you marry me?" I asked and waited for a response.
"Damn it, Bella, why did you ask me that?" he complained and I immediately began giving him all the reasons I wanted to be with him forever.
"No, I mean, why did you have to be the one to ask? You already have more money than me, you figured out who killed Banner, and you had to instigate sex. I wanted one thing to do, so I wasn't completely emasculated."
"Okay, forget it, I'll just stay married to Jake," I said and turned over to face away from him.
"I'll ask, so the answer is no," he said with his own pout.
"The offer was rescinded," I pointed out.
"Too late, I already said no," he huffed.
"Bite me," I said under my breath and he turned to look at me angrily.
"You act like such a dick sometimes," he said as he turned away again.
"And you act like such a pussy," I said and grabbed my pillow.
I climbed off the bed and headed downstairs to the couch. I was so angry with him and wasn't about to share his bed. I tossed and turned, never getting fully comfortable and wanted to scream from frustration. I heard someone coming down the stairs and I held perfectly still, hoping it wasn't Edward.
The light came on and I covered my face and groaned loudly. When I finally was able to tolerate the light I glanced up with squinted eyes to see Edward dressed in a tux. He was down on one knee and holding out a box with a diamond ring. My eyes shot open and I gasped in disbelief.
"I had it planned out perfectly, until you fucked it up," he said and I laughed loudly. I dove into his arms and we both fell onto the floor.
"Yes," I yelled in between the laughter and his kisses as he placed the ring on my finger.
It wasn't a conventional proposal, or one we would be able to tell our children about without filtering, but it was so perfect for us. Nothing worked the way we planned in our lives, but we still managed to fight our way to the top and come out finding love.
Banner became a distant memory after Emily's baby was born looking exactly like Sam. Leah and Jake married a month after me and Edward. Eric and Lauren are not married but they are still together and raising a baby. Jessica dated Tyler for almost a year and finally moved to San Diego and found the love of her life. Angela ended up married to Tyler and they are so perfect together.
Mike made the biggest changes and finally became the great man he was destined to be. He went to college and is now in medical school studying to be a psychiatrist. Carlisle is his biggest supporter and still keeps in touch with him.
Edward started a company with Eric to fight child pornography. Their software was purchased by the government and used all around the world. I finished my fountain and it sits proudly in front of the Forks elementary school. Jordan will be remembered by the entire student body, something beautiful, just like him.
The year we all turned thirty we gathered at the beach for a reunion of sorts. The tunnel was going to be imploded; the state bought the land and was turning it into a beach front park. We all wanted the opportunity to come to terms with the place that had plagued our dreams for all those years.
We came from all over with our families and spent the day on the beach. When the sun fell low in the sky we joined together and headed down that long tunnel to the four rooms underground. They seemed so much smaller now our spirits were so much larger. We walked through them silently, each stuck in our own memories.
When we ended up in the same room we naturally formed a circle and looked at each other. Mike smiled and said, "Listen."
We all held still and listened to the far off sound of children playing on the beach. I could hear my own son, Jordan, and his loud laughter. We instinctively held hands, one at a time, forming a circle and closed our eyes. We were transported in time, back to when we were young, before Banner entered our world and when laughter filled our lives.
We had come full circle and we're now able to find the children within we used to be. We walked down that long tunnel for the last time. We won, no longer were our lives symbols of hope then failure, trial and error, we were survivors and our lives were full of love.