My father arranged to have a moving van pack up my cabin and the McCarty's. We were not sure what would be left to move but we held out hope something remained. Emmett and Rosalie, along with their son, Clinton, flew home with my mother. They were going to stay in our home until something more permanent could be arranged for them.

Alice and Jasper went home to Pennsylvania and we all promised to stay in touch. My father drove Emmett's truck behind Bella and me, in my Jeep. There was a weird vibe between us and I couldn't quite figure out what it was. I knew she was nervous about returning to Chicago, but I was staying this time.

"Hey," I said, to get her attention. She turned her face to mine and smiled. "A penny for your thoughts."

"I don't like this shirt," she said bluntly of the things my mother purchased for her.

"At our next stop you can change it," I suggested.

"How do clothes end up in the stores?" she asked me, and I took it as a good sign she trusted me enough to teach her something.

"Well, people design clothes according to the current styles, like Tanya, she designs clothes and a company makes them…."

"Tanya designs clothes?" she asked in a shocked tone.

"You didn't know? She started as a model and moved into design work."

"Oh, is that why she could get me work?" she asked.

"She knows a lot of people in the industry and I'm sure they were blown away by your beauty," I added to make her feel Tanya was not just doing me a favor.

Bella laughed and pushed my shoulder. She stared out the window as she was deep in thought and I asked again, "A penny for your thoughts."

"I think I could do something, I mean I don't have an education but I think I could make something."

I wasn't quit sure what she was meaning. She didn't act like she had an idea to pitch, but more like her future was weighing heavily on her. I had told her I wanted her with me and I wanted her to be my wife. She knew my intentions but seemed worried about something.

"You want to design clothes?" I asked in surprise. She never seemed too impressed by fashion.

"No, not clothes," she mumbled and went back to looking out the window.

We went back to our awkward silence and I turned on the radio. Slowly her body started moving with the beat of the song and it was getting me pretty damn hot. I wished my father wasn't driving behind me or I would have pulled over.

"Do you like to dance?" I asked her, and she simply nodded her head. "I liked watching you dance," I admitted and she looked over at me with sad eyes.

"My roommate Lauren, said men watch women dance so they can imagine them when they play with their…you know," she said and looked away again.

"Penis," I said, and she blushed. "Bella, say it, say Penis," I teased her.

"Shut up, dickhead," she said with a laugh but still wouldn't look at me.

"Did you just say dick? Bella, look at me, did you just say the word dick?" I laughed, and she wouldn't turn to look at me. We drove for a few minutes before she spoke.

"So, do you?" she asked finally turning to look at me.

I laughed and tried to play ignorant, "Do I what?"

"Do you watch women dance for that purpose?"

"What purpose?" I asked trying to sound convincing.

She didn't smile but continued to look at me. I had a feeling we were talking about something much deeper than turning men on by dancing provocatively. "I like to dance, but I don't want men thinking that, so maybe I shouldn't dance," she said as her eyes turned sad again.

I felt sick, and guilty for my gender. In all honesty it took very little to excite men and it did turn us on to watch women dance, especially the way Bella danced. I tried to think of some way to explain that she didn't need to change her behavior, but men needed to change theirs.

"Bella there is sex and there is love…"

"I know," she said and huffed loudly.

"Can you explain what you're thinking because I'm in the dark over here?" I said with my own irritation.

"I want to do something, not just dance, so you will want me…I mean I know you want me, but I want to be something….more."

"I get that, Bella, I really do. And you are free to do anything, just give it some time and something you are passionate about will show up. What do you love?"

"I don't know, but it is just right under the surface. I can feel…something…but I don't know what it is and it makes me what to scream," she said as she pounded on her thighs.

"Do you want to model?" I asked trying to find a way to bring up the pills.

She sighed and looked out the window again, so I pushed her further. "Bella, I don't want you going back to modeling, you'll find something you love, I promise."

She didn't respond so I pressed on, "And I don't want you going back to your apartment, are we in agreement about that?"

"Do you think you will ever need me?" she asked as she turned in her seat to face me.

My eyes shot open wise and I actually gasped, "I need you always…I…"

"No, I mean, like on the mountain, when I had to save you," she said looking at me carefully.

"I don't get it, do I plan on needing saving?"

"No, I mean, I was useful to you. It made me feel good," she said as her eyes filled with tears.

I thought about what she said and wondered if I had ever treated a woman like she was useful to me. I never looked at a relationship that way and usually dated women I was attracted to or had a common interest with. I remembered how I felt when I couldn't reach Bella, snowed in, and went to sleep at night thinking about her.

"Bella, I had a relationship with Tanya, but the feelings I felt for you were so different and so consuming, I didn't want to go on without you. When I was in that cavern and didn't know if the James' got you or not, I honestly wanted to die if you were gone from my life. You give me a reason to live, how much more useful could you get?"

She smiled and began playing with her hair, seemingly in a much better mood, and I was still lost on what we were actually discussing. We pulled over at a huge truck stop to gas up and use the restrooms. I had to search the large gift shop to find Bella.

"Did you get a shirt?" I asked since her hands were empty.

She pointed at a display case of turquoise jewelry and said, "I could do that."

"Do what?" I asked her.

"I could use my counting rocks and make stuff like this, I think it is so beautiful."

"You like jewelry?" I asked in shock since she never wore any.

"Is it modeling?" she asked with a soft voice and I realized she must have worn jewelry for runway shows.

I shook my head and called the attendant over to the case. He pulled out a bunch of pieces and I asked Bella to show me what she liked. She liked the big, bulky pieces, which worked perfectly with her understated wardrobe. She tried on so many rings the man was growing tired of us. When she didn't find the one she wanted I suggested she try to draw one and we could look into getting it made for her.

Her face lit up and she pushed all of the pieces back to the man, "I'm going to make my own," she said proudly.

She threw her arms around my neck and I lifted her off her feet to walk her to the Jeep. My father was waiting outside and gave me a questioning look.

"Sorry, Bella was becoming a designer," I laughed, and he looked at Bella with confusion.

She grabbed her jar of counting rocks and held them up for Carlisle to see, "I'm going to make my own jewelry with my counting rocks," she announced proudly.

He took the jar and looked at them carefully and then back at me, "Where did you get these?"

"Bella's land has a cave full of them," I said, and began making plans to have it mined for her jewelry line.

My father laughed uncomfortably and nodded for me to follow him to Emmett's truck. I told Bella to wait in the Jeep, but she was already lost in her design plans.

"Son, those are Rubies," he said quietly.

"I thought so, the Swan's didn't know what they had right underneath them," I said and couldn't wait to tell Bella.

"Are you sure? You said Bella knew that land well, a man growing up on that mountain in a mining community surely knew those were not just counting rocks," my father said to make me truly wonder.

I thought back to Jacob's story of protecting Bella because she was simple, a promise made to her mother, who was found in an old mine shaft after being attacked by a bear. What was Jacob doing in an old mine shaft on the Swan's property? And why were the James' boys so interested in a girl who was touched in the head?"

I punched the truck as my anger exploded out of me. I paced like an angry lion as I put the pieces together in my head. I felt so stupid and my realization those men on the mountain were just like every other man in the world, wanting something for nothing, fueled my desire for revenge.

Jacob's greed cost Bella years of her life, and most likely the death of her parents. I kicked the huge tires on the truck several times until I saw Bella climb from the jeep and look at me with terrified eyes. When something clicked in my brain I couldn't contain the laughter erupting out of me, they couldn't find it. Bella never led them back to the mine.

I ran over and pulled her into my arms and spun her around. "You are a genius Bella Swan," I laughed.

I helped her back into the Jeep and yelled to my father, "Get an appointment with your lawyers for as soon as we arrive."

I climbed into the drivers seat and grabbed Bella's head and kissed her passionately. Her eyes narrowed and she asked, "Did you take some pills?"

"No, love," I laughed, "But you my dear, are the most important person on that whole damn mountain."

I headed back down the highway feeling I would somehow be able to make up to Bella what I had done to her. Not just me, but every man who caused her pain.

"Why?" she asked with suspicion.

"Start from the beginning and tell me about when your parents left."

"My daddy was sick…"

"Sick how, what was wrong with him?" I interrupted.

She thought for several seconds and then shrugged.

"Was he in bed or weak?" I asked.

"No, my mama told a lady that daddy was sick and she couldn't teach anymore because she had to take care of him a lot."

"Okay, keep going," I said.

"They were going to see a doctor…"

"What kind of doctor?" I cut in again.

"I can't remember," she said sadly.

"Was it possibly a gemologist?"

"Maybe," she said as she tried to think.

"Why didn't they take you with them?" I asked hoping I didn't bring up anything painful.

"They left when it was still dark, and it was too cold for me to walk that far to the main road."

"Cold…was it winter?"

"Yeah, it snowed a lot when they left. I thought they just got caught in the snow," she said as tears formed.

"A bear wouldn't be out in the winter, would it?" I asked and she looked at me in shock.

"No, and Jacob wouldn't be using his coon dogs in the winter either, only trappers work in the winter. Do you think my mama and daddy are still alive?" she asked with such hopeful eyes it broke my heart to tell her the truth.

"I think they may have been murdered, not killed by a bear," I said and reached out to take her hand. I was wishing I had waited to bring up the whole subject or at least pulled over so I could comfort her.

"Why?" she asked just barely above a whisper.

"Bella, your counting rocks are rubies, and they are worth a lot of money. If your father had a ruby mine he was going to be a very wealthy man. I think Jacob assumed you knew about the mine and would lead him to it."

She looked at me as she thought back through her mind and finally said, "He called me his gold mine."

"I am so sorry, love."

"The James family told me I was a traitor for telling the teacher what I wouldn't tell my own people," she informed me.

"Bella, I don't want your mine. It is all yours and I can help you get protection for it. You are a rich woman and I don't want a dime of it, do you understand what I'm telling you? I love you, Bella, not one single rock."

"Does this make me interesting?" she asked and I wanted to laugh but her expression was nothing but pain.

"I don't understand, you have always fascinated me," I admitted.

"When Tanya gave me the pills, she said they would make me interesting, like you wanted."

My foot automatically hit the brakes sending my father swerving into the other lane to avoid running into the back of me. Bella grabbed onto the dashboard as her seatbelt tightened to keep her from hitting the windshield. Cars were honking around me but my entire focus was on one thing, I was going to destroy Tanya Denali.


My emotions were all over the map. I was angry at Tanya for betraying me. I didn't really blame her for wanting vengeance, but taking it out of Bella was too much. I was feeling stupid for trusting Jacob Black, I mean he kept her on a rope for God's sake. And every time I looked in a mirror at my bruised and swollen face, I felt like a loser for letting the James boys get the better of me.

But I was in my comfort zone now, and I would change the game to Bella's favor. She was going to have everything she deserved and I was going to make sure everyone who took advantage of her paid.

She spent her time drawing jewelry designs as I spent the drive coming up with a plan. When we pulled into my driveway in Chicago I had a new resolve. It was the middle of the night so we headed right upstairs to my bed. It had been over a week since Bella and I made love and I felt a bit nervous.

A week changed us, and I wasn't sure if she expected me to be physical with her or not. When she finished brushing her teeth she asked, "Can I take a shower?"

"Sure, there should be towels under the sink," I said and she chuckled.

"I lived here, remember?"

"Sorry, the towels are wherever you left them," I laughed.

She stood like she was waiting for something so I gave her my full attention. She blushed and then nodded to the bathroom with a jerk of her head.

"Would you like some company?" I asked with a smile.

"No, just you," she said softly and walked from the room pulling her shirt over her head.

I quickly followed and felt the miles melt away as she wrapped her body around mine under the hot spray. I hadn't shaved, actually too terrified of the pain it would cause, and she rubbed her hand over my stubble.

"I'm going to make it all up to you," I said as I looked into her eyes.

"I think I am the one who owes you," she said, and I shook my head.

"It should have been like this last time, I should have held you like this and loved you completely, and then refused to return to the mountain."

Her hands wandered down my back and she lay her head on my chest and moaned. My body came alive and I pulled her to me as I became overwhelmed with my need for her. I had taught her everything I liked and how to react to my body specifically. She moved like I was all she ever wanted in the world, and I tried to show her how much I loved her.

Holding her in my arms filled me with happiness, and I wanted to concentrate on all of her, her mouth, her breasts, her legs holding me tightly to what was tantamount to heaven. It was never enough and I cried out for more as she arched into me.

"I love you," I was saying in her ear, unable to stop myself from repeating it over and over like a madman. Words sounded meaningless and I couldn't make it come out the way I felt it. It was painful to love someone so much and not be able to make them see the depth of it.

"Edward," she called out to bring me out of my daze.

I laughed uncomfortably and tried to calm my heart rate. I stepped back to let her breathe but she moved with me and remained pressed tightly to me. "No, don't leave," she whispered and I retightened my arms around her.

"I got a little carried away," I said into her neck.

"No, not carried away, that was amazing. You didn't have to tell me, I could feel it. Can you feel my love for you?" she asked with a voice I hadn't heard before. It was the voice of a woman, not a girl or someone afraid of her surroundings, or someone staying with me because she had no place else to go.

"Marry me, Bella. Say you'll be my wife, I can't face another day without knowing you're mine forever," I said with emotion so deep it brought me to tears.

She pulled my ear to her mouth and whispered, "Yes, a million times yes."

And I began to cry, not simple tears of joy, but loud sobs of amazement. Something deep within my soul told me how lucky I was to find her upon this vast earth and the chances of that happening were so minuscule, I was overcome with gratitude.

We fell asleep as soon as our heads hit the pillow and the smell of bacon along with a crying baby woke me up. I was stunned to see Bella was gone from the bed and I immediately wondered if she had any pills hidden around the house.

I jumped up and headed down stairs to find her chatting with Rosalie as she tried to comfort Clinton as his mother ate. I leaned against the doorway and watched her make funny faces at the baby as she bounced him in her arms. Rosalie saw me and smiled causing Bella to look up. "I want one," she said to my stunned face.

Rosalie began to laugh and explained to Bella, "You can't say something like that to a man; it makes his balls retreat."

Bella handed the baby to his mother and pulled out a chair for me, "I'll get your breakfast while you find your balls."

"Where's Emmett?" I asked as I sat down.

"He's at work," Rosalie said, as if I was simple minded.

"Already," I gasped. "He can take time to get settled first."

"You don't know Emmett, he thrives on work. Your mother is taking me to look at some places today. Oh, Bella, you are supposed to call your roommates."

I glanced at her and waited for a reaction but she only gave a quick nod.

"I'll watch your baby, if you'd like," Bella said with hopeful eyes, and it made me wonder if she truly wanted one. I began imagining what it would be like to have a child, something I had never done before in my life. It would be a part of me and Bella, something completely ours. I would come home to a wife and child waiting behind the door of my own home.

I felt a pair of arms come around my neck from behind and Bella whispered in my ear, "Relax, I was only kidding."

I wondered why my face looked stressed when my thoughts were comforting. But, those thoughts would have to wait, I had important things to take care of first.

"Bella, we have a lot to do today, I need you to come with me," I told her, as I began eating the food she had set in front of me.

She walked over to the phone and called her roommates. She spoke for a few minutes and hung up. I watched her for any regret or indecision but I didn't see any hesitation on her part.

"My room has been rented, I need to pick up my boxes," she told me, and I quickly agreed.

We both dressed casually and headed out to take care of business. We went to her apartment first and I carried the boxes to the jeep before heading up to Tanya's apartment. She didn't answer and I didn't know if it was too early, or she was out of town.

We then headed to my dad's offices to meet with his product development team. We brought copies of Bella's drawings and asked for wax molds to be made. Bella was very specific about what she wanted, and although most of us didn't agree, it was her passion.

Next, we headed to the company lawyer's office. He put us in touch with a probate lawyer who would work on getting the deed to Bella's land put into her name and check on the zoning in order to open the mine.

Our final stop was to a gemcutter. He spent two hours with Bella explaining the different lapping techniques and the various cuts and facets. I was floored when she told him she would leave a few rocks with him and wanted to see samples of his work the next day.

When we walked out I hugged her and laughed, "Where did all this business sense come from?"

"I heard one of the photographers say that to a lady who did makeup. It sounded right," she laughed.

"Okay, one last stop. I want you to pick out an engagement ring, and make sure to get whatever you want, it is your choice."

"Can we do it later, Edward? I'm feeling overwhelmed," she admitted.

"Of course, and I'm really proud of you for telling me."

I gave her a big kiss and headed home. The house was still empty and Bella wanted to rest so I left her in the dark room and went downstairs to call Jasper. I told him everything I suspected about Jacob and the James' as well as Tanya's involvement regarding the pills.

While we were chatting Emmett came home. I repeated everything I had told Jasper to Emmett. He seemed very upset about the news regarding the Swans.

"Charlie was a great man, he deserved to make it big," Emmett said sadly.

"Do you think Jacob is capable of killing the Swans for their mine?" I asked him outright.

"Absolutely, he's worked in the mines for a long time; he would jump at the chance to have his own mine."

"Well, I have a plan to make it all right, he's not going to get away with it," I told him just as Rosalie and my mother walked in.

Rose was excited about a house she saw and was going on about it to Emmett. My mother headed to the kitchen and began making dinner. I heard the back door open and Tanya walked in. I had to force myself to stay calm. She smiled and me and walked over for a polite hug.

I introduced her to Emmett and Rosalie and asked her to join us for dinner. She happily agreed and I told her Bella was resting. She gushed over Clinton and talked about missing Bella's friendship. I felt sick to my stomach.

I was helping my mother with dinner and setting the table when I heard Bella talking with Tanya in the other room. I decided to put my plan in place a bit early. I set Tanya's place directly across from me. When my father arrived, everyone was called into the dining room.

I held the chair for Tanya and made sure to let my finger run down her exposed arm before I walked over to hold Bella's chair. When I sat, Tanya looked up with just her eyes to make contact with me. I winked and she tried to hide a smile.

I was only in my socks so halfway through dinner I moved my feet to rest on hers. I was having a conversation with Emmett and looking to my side, but I could tell she was looking at me. When I began rubbing my feet back and forth gently she took a big gulp of her wine.

"So, Edward," she finally said to address me directly, "Are you going to teach around here?"

I turned to look into her eyes and purposely licked my lips slowly. "I'm not sure; I'm still trying to figure things out."

"I don't mind," Bella said, and I turned my head to smile at her. I took her hand in mine and brought her fingers to my lips as my eyes looked into Tanya's. She grabbed her cup and took another big gulp of wine.

"Tanya," I said, "Whatever happened to that photographer, Demetri?"

"Oh, God, don't remind me. I despise him," she said as she shook her head. "He was so disgusting and always coming on to me. I needed a shower every time he photographed me.

"I remember when you thought I should style my hair like his," I teased her.

"That was before I knew what an ass he was, Bella you remember him don't you?" she asked her but Bella shook her head back and forth.

"Bella's memory isn't the greatest," I said as I rolled my eyes, but actually squeezed her hand with mine.

"I'm just busy with my drawings," Bella said, and I quickly stood and asked who wanted dessert. I didn't want Tanya to know about the jewelry line. She had too many connections in the industry and I knew she would sabotage Bella.

"I'll help you," Tanya offered, and followed me into the kitchen.

She stood next to me as I cut the cake and I leaned over and to smell her neck. "Is that a new perfume, you smell…delicious," I said as I breathed on her neck.

"Edward, are you flirting with me?" she asked with a breathy voice.

"I just miss an elegant woman," I said, and took a plate of cake in to Bella. I handed her a piece with extra icing and gave her a kiss before returning to the kitchen.

"I admit I miss you too, Edward. Maybe we should meet somewhere and talk about things." She was leaning suggestively against the counter and I had to reach past her for the plates of cake. I purposefully pushed into her with my body before bringing the plates back with me.

I smiled and wiggled my eyebrows at her and said, "Maybe."


My plan was coming together and I loved every moment of it. Tanya was convinced I was pining over her. Bella was so engrossed in her designs and growing in confidence every day. As soon as the deed was put in Bella's name I was going after Jacob.

Bella and Emmett spoke often of the mine and different possibilities to help the people of the small community. I told her I would support anything she decided to do, but had to admit I was a bit preoccupied by me need for revenge.

I had just met with Demetri and put my finishing touches on my plans for Tanya. I met her for dinner and made sure she drank plenty of champagne. I complimented her often and frequently let my eyes fall to her breasts when she spoke.

"Come home with me, Edward," she pleaded. "We were so good together and I remember what you like."

"I want to make it special, Tanya, you know, let the heat build. I'm a bit ashamed, but I made plans for us tonight at The Ritz," I said trying to act contrite.

"I'm glad you did, I want you so badly," she said and ran her foot up my leg under the table.

I reached into my pocket and handed her an envelope. "What's this?" she asked.

"Just a little game, take the card to the driver out front and he knows what to do," I explained.

"Edward, I don't need all of this, I just want you."

"I have a lot to make up for, let me spoil you a bit," I said using my best smile.

She stood and I could see the excitement in her eyes. When she turned to leave the table I called out for her. She looked back at me and I said, "And try to hurry, I'm only human after all."

She hurried out to the limo and I felt a smile grow on my face. I paid the bill and got into my car to drive home. Bella was waiting for me in bed and I quickly disposed of my clothes. "How did it go?" she asked.

"Perfectly, thank you for waiting up for me," I said as I kissed her jaw and neck.

"I missed you," she moaned and I pulled her onto me.

"I'm all yours?" I said to her and she stared into my eyes. I marveled at the look of serenity on her face. She wasn't scared, or confused, or high. She was just my Bella and I loved her totally. "Are you ready to pick a ring?" I asked her.

"Yes, I am. I would like to use two small Rubies in the ring, to represent my parents."

"That's a wonderful idea. I would love for you to design the ring, so you get exactly what you want."

She ran her finger down my face and along my jaw before sighing loudly. "I feel like I am ignoring you," she said softly.

I smiled at the thought of her being so busy with her things that she felt she was being dismissive to me. I loved how confident she was becoming and realized there were little explanations needed from me. Her passion was tied to her land and that was in her blood.

"I have an idea how you can remedy that situation," I told her as I stared into her eyes.

"One more thing before I make you lose every thought," she said with a wicked grin. "I have a session tomorrow with my therapist and he wants you to come."

"Oh, okay," I said as I felt my throat tighten.

She laughed loudly and said, "Relax, you're not in trouble."

I rolled us over and she made good on her threat, making me lose all conscious thought.

I was lying in bed awake, but trying to keep the busy day I had ahead at bay, when the slamming of the door made me jump. Bella sat up with wide eyes just as loud screaming rang through the house.

"Edward Cullen, you are a dead man," Tanya screamed at the top of her lungs.

I jumped up and threw on some pajama bottoms and ran out to the balcony overlooking the foyer. Bella was pulling my t-shirt over her head as she came out to join me. Tanya looked up and pointed at me. Her hair was a mess and her clothes looked like she dressed in a hurry.

"You son-of-a-bitch," she screamed. "I hate you, I will ruin you, Edward."

"You're lucky I didn't have you arrested. You could have killed her," I screamed back.

My parents came running out of their room in shock at the scene in front of them. "What's going on?" Carlisle asked.

"Your son played a horrible joke on me, and it wasn't funny, Edward," she screeched.

"Turning my fiancé into an addict wasn't funny either. How dare you give her drugs and tell her it was what I wanted. You have no idea what you did to her," I said in full rage now.

"Oh, grow up, Edward. If she wanted to be a model she had to stay thin and she was good, thanks to me, not you 'fiancé', but me."

"Do you really think I am that stupid? You gave her hundreds of pills and kept her high most of the time…"

"It's not my fault she couldn't handle it," Tanya yelled.

Bella began walking down the stairs as she kept her eyes trained on Tanya the entire time. She walked right up to her defiant face and spoke softly saying, "You really thought you were going to sleep with Edward last night, my Edward, my fiancé, my man, and just get away with it?"

"He has been coming on to me for weeks," Tanya said as she leered at Bella.

"Did it make you feel good? Did it make you think about him constantly? Did it make you feel like you couldn't go on without him?"

Tanya looked up at me nervously and then back at Bella. "You are nothing but a hillbilly who Edward feels sorry for, you have no idea what it takes to be a woman or what it will take to keep him interested in you."

"How would you know, you couldn't keep him interested, so maybe you are the one who needs the pills," Bella laughed. "But, please tell me one thing….how was Demetri?"

Tanya seethed in anger. I had sent her on a treasure hunt of sorts. Having her stop at various places, drinking more champagne, and changing into a very salacious nightgown, before receiving specific instructions to come to the room and remain quiet. Demetri was waiting in the bed with only one candle burning. We were of the same size and build so in the darkness, along with all the champagne Tanya drank, it would be easy to pass him off as me.

Tanya turned to leave and I called out, no longer finding the entire thing funny. "Don't come back here again, and consider yourself lucky I embarrassed you instead of having you arrested."

She looked at Bella and said, "You won't last a year with him."

"Well, it's a year you won't have," Bella smirked.

When Tanya left I walked downstairs and pulled Bella into my arms. I assured her I would never leave her and she smiled a silly grin. "What are you thinking?" I asked her.

"I don't feel so ignorant when I see how stupid other women are," she laughed. "I would know your body in the darkness."

I kissed her passionately and longed for the day she would be my wife. We picked August for our wedding but Bella would never pick a place. I felt she was holding out hope she could be married in the small church on the mountain, the same place her parents were married.

We dressed and went to breakfast before attending her session together. I was anxious and knew I would hear things that would add to my guilt for leaving Bella here alone before. I tried to man up and hear what the doctor had to say.

We sat together on the couch and my leg was bouncing from nerves. The doctor was a grandfatherly man and spoke with a clear, calm voice, giving me a false sense of security. He introduced himself and asked me to call him Billy. He smiled at Bella and leaned over in his chair and said, "Edward, I understand you are the first consensual relationship Bella has had."

I glanced at her and back at the old gentleman, "Consensual?"

"Well, she has been a victim of sexual assault, on more than one occasion, you knew this right?" he asked as he stared at me like I was the antichrist.

"Oh..um..yeah, or I think…Bella?" I said wanting her to help me out. She had her head down and wouldn't look at me. "Wait a minute. It wasn't like I tried to put her in dangerous situations. She was in danger for years and I tried to keep our relationship…I mean I tried not to…I saved her from that man," I finally ended with.

"Did you ever discuss it with her?" he asked and I let my head drop in shame.

"I thought the problem with the pills was a more urgent matter," I offered.

"Of course you saw how the two were related," he pressed and sat back to stare at me.

I only shook my head and refused to meet his gaze. He sat quietly and let me wallow in my guilt and misery before taking a deep breath and making his point. "Edward, you are engaged to a woman who has so much pain she is obsessed with making you proud."

"I am extremely proud of Bella," I told him.

"How can you be, you know nothing about the woman?" he challenged me.

"Oh my God," I yelled as I jumped from the couch. "I love this woman with my entire heart and soul. I would die for her, don't tell me I know nothing about her. "

"Do you know she has nightmares?"

I looked at Bella in shock and waited for her to look at me. "Why can't you tell me, Bella?" I asked her with pain in my voice.

"Everything has changed Edward, I used to dream about you leaving me or that I was back in the cage, but now I dream about my designs and my fear is nobody will want them," she said as her head dropped.

I sat back down and took her hand in mine. She kept her head down and I wondered why she was so worried about my disappointment in her, was I really that bad? "Bella, love, those are normal fears. I have faith in you because your designs are so unique, like you. People are going to love them, just like we all love you."

She took a shaky breath and raised her head to look into my eyes. "Edward, my biggest fear is I won't need you anymore."

I smiled and ran my hand through her hair, "You don't need me now, but I hope you still want me," I told her and at the same time shared my own fear.

"I'll always want you," she said with a strong voice.

"If you want to tell me what happened with the James boy, I'll listen," I said as my own hands began to shake.

"It wasn't like you, it was mean and he hurt me," she said still looking at me as tears filled her eyes.

"How did he hurt you?" I pushed.

"He held me down and touched me," she said clearly.

"Do I ever hurt you?" I asked, truly wanting to hear her answer.

"No, but I think you hold back because you don't want me to think of you like I think of him."

I thought for a bit and wondered if I was holding back for that reason, or because I felt she was fragile or maybe I felt she was learning and I needed to go slow. The truth was our sex was precious to me, not like what I had with Tanya, and she could tell I was holding back.

"I admit I am holding back, but not because I am afraid I will hurt you. My love for you overwhelms me and it means so much to me I guard it. If you want me to work on being more spontaneous or less…contained, I'll do it."

She nodded and looked down, as her tears built again before saying, "I don't know everything that happened with him in the house."

"I know, and it doesn't matter to me," I told her honestly. "You saved my life, and to be totally honest, I doubt anything happened because you were both so wasted….on candy."

She laughed and looked at me again, "I don't want it anymore. It doesn't haunt me or enter my thoughts."

"Okay, I have a few boxes to throw out," I teased referring to the chocolate and not the pills, making her smirk at me.

"That candy I still want."

We left there feeling united and officially a couple. I began seeing Bella as an independent woman who knew what she wanted. I stopped treating her like she would break or fall apart at any moment. I was freer with my emotions and leaned on her once in awhile. The biggest change was in our love making. Bella earned every single candy bar in the boxes.


Bella had decided on the pieces she wanted to use to launch her line when we got the news everything had been moved into Bella's name. She was given a map of her property lines and began discussing with Emmett the best way to precede hiring workers for the mine.

She was going to have the Swan cabin turned into the mine office and a lunch room for the workers. She felt adamant that local men should be hired before any outsiders were offered positions.

We finally reached the point where it was necessary to return to the mountain to get things going. Emmett was coming and Jasper was going to meet us there, anxious to return to the small church. Bella felt confident her stature in the community as an employer would keep her safe.

I left Bella and Rosalie at the hotel and headed up the mountain with Emmett a day earlier than the girls. I felt my anxiety rise as I drove to Jacob's house. In one short week the mountain would be overrun with rumors and construction trucks to prepare for the opening of Swan Gem Company. I needed my plan to work or it would be too late.

I knocked on the door and Leah answered. She immediately tried to shut the door but Emmett pushed it back open. "I only want to talk to Jacob," I assured her.

Jacob came walking out in only some boxers and looked like he was exhausted. I tried to smile but I couldn't pull it off, so instead I asked if we could speak alone. He pushed Leah out of the room and motioned for us to sit.

"The changes look nice," I said, actually disgusted that I had paid this man for killing Bella's parents.

"What are you doing here?" he asked me.

"Well, I want to make you a deal," I told him. "I want you to take Bella off my hands."

He laughed and shook his head as if he knew it all along, "I told you no matter what condition you found her in, you had to keep her."

"She can't handle the city, she needs to come back here and I'm not willing to stay," I lied.

Jacob looked at Emmett and raised his eyebrows causing Emmett to laugh loudly. "I'm married to Rosalie Hale, you think she's gonna let me bring Bella to my home?"

"Take her to the James', they want her," he said hatefully.

"Fine," I said as I stood, "Maybe they can figure out what she means about the damn red rocks."

"Wait," Jacob said quickly. "I was just seeing how determined you were to get rid of her. You can't turn her over to them, it isn't right."

I watched him as he tried to work stuff out in his mind. He glanced down the hallway a couple of times and finally nodded at me. I felt my hands pull into fists and forced myself to calm down. Emmett gave me an encouraging pat on the back and I used his added strength to continue on.

"I have her in a hotel down the mountain. Come down tomorrow morning to get her, so I can get the hell out of here," I said as calmly as I could.

Jacob looked down the hallway again and finally nodded. I handed him a card from the hotel with our room number on it before walking out the door. I felt a bit of satisfaction that I had solved a murder, but the rest of the plan still had to work.

When we arrived back at the hotel I found Bella bouncing off the walls with good news. She ran to my jeep before I could open the door and began jumping up and down. I laughed and climbed out of the vehicle to give her a hug.

"You won't believe what happened," she said still bouncing in my arms.

"What?" I asked with enthusiasm.

"I got a call from a company who make medical instruments and they want to use my rubies for some lasers or something. They want an exclusive contract," she said with her chest thrust out in pride.

"What did you tell them?" I asked wondering if I needed to get my father's lawyers involved.

"I told him my secretary will call to set up an appointment, but I insisted they use our gem cutter and not go through a second party."

I stared at her in disbelief, her business sense amazed me; it was an innate part of her. "Who is your secretary?" I laughed.

She turned toward Rosalie and said, "Ta Da!"

"We live in Chicago now," Emmett said looking a bit worried.

"Not if you accept the position of mine manager," Bella pointed out.

He looked completely stunned and said to his wife, "What about Clinton?"

"Bella said I can bring him with me and she'll help me out," Rosalie said with pride causing Emmett to smile widely.

It was my turn to look stunned, Bella planned on staying here to run the mine. I couldn't ruin her good mood and continued to smile as my heart moved to my throat. We all headed into the rooms to discuss the second part of the plan.

Jasper and Alice showed up around dinner time and we all went out to eat and catch up. They commented on how big Clinton was and how healthy Bella looked. I noticed how Bella smiled all night and I grew nervous as we headed back to the hotel.

I was lying in bed when Bella came out of the bathroom and watched her as she brushed her hair for a moment and then crawled in next to me. She moved her arm and leg across my body and kissed my chest a couple of times.

"You seem so happy to be back," I told her.

"Hmmm, no, just happy to be in your arms," she sighed.

"Are you worried about tomorrow?" I asked her.

"No, not at all. I don't want you to worry either, I knew Jacob very well."

"If he admits it, can you stay composed?"

She raised her head and looked at me, "I pretended to be mentally ill for several years, I think I can handle a couple of hours."

"No heroics, promise?" I asked her, and she smiled and kissed me passionately.

The following morning she dressed in a simple baggy dress and sat along the wall to wait for our plan to kick in. I had a plastic bag full of old clothes to give to Jacob and walked over to sit next to her. She held out her hand and I took it with mine.

I glanced at the little pin she had on her collar which looked like a sun, but was actually a small microphone. We had given her two code words to use. One if she needed us to intervene immediately and one if she got what we needed.

When we heard a loud knock on the door she tensed. I leaned over and kissed her before saying, "I love you so much, Bella."

"You are my whole world, Edward," she said back to me.

I walked over to open the door. Jacob looked past me to see Bella against the wall with her head down. I noticed Jacob had a rope in his hand and my body tensed with anger. "No rope," I said through clenched teeth. "She is going willingly with you."

He only nodded and looked back at Bella. She stood and kept her head down as she walked towards him. He backed up so she could pass and I reached out and pulled her into my arms. "I'm sorry, Bella," I said and gasped a little when she used her hand between us to goose me in the crotch.

I notice a smile before she dropped her head again.

As soon as they left the parking lot, Emmett and Jasper shot out of their rooms. We jumped in the rental car Jasper had and took off after Jacob's old red truck. I turned on the recorder and the radio and easily picked up their voices.

"Looks like you're back where you began," Jacob said.

"Yeah, he didn't want me," Bella said sadly and her voice sent a shiver through me.

"You belong up here anyway," he mumbled.

It was quiet for a bit and we started the climb up the winding mountain road.

"He made fun of my counting rocks," Bella said and then sighed loudly.

"Do you know where they come from?" Jacob asked.

It was quiet and then we heard Bella say, "yes," very softly. I had warned her about using gestures since we needed to get everything on a recording. "My Mama and Daddy got killed by a bear?" she asked.

"Uh…yeah, that's what I heard," Jacob said and I looked at Jasper with confusion as he drove.

"You didn't find em?" she pushed.

"Yeah, your daddy was dead, but your mama was still breathing. She told me to find you."

"They left in the winter," Bella said, and I was shaking for her as she pushed him closer to the truth.

"Oh, um yeah, right."

"Bears don't come out in the winter," she said.

He took a deep breath and said, "Look Bella, you have to show me where you got the counting rocks so I can keep you safe. The James' killed your folks, so they could take you and have the mine. I can help you take the rocks to the city, but they…..oh shit!"

"What?" I yelled at the radio without realizing they couldn't hear me. Jasper picked up his speed to try and catch up to the truck which was a few miles ahead of us.

"What do they want?" Bella asked with fear in her voice.

"Duck," Jacob yelled, and I heard Bella scream loudly.

I punched the dashboard in frustration as Jasper floored the accelerator. We came around a curve and skidded sideways as Jasper hit the brakes to stop before running into Jacob's truck. A road block was set up and our windshield shattered just as a shot rang out.

We all ducked and I noticed blood begin to pool on the seat. I followed it to Jasper's arm as he held tightly against his body. "Where did it get you?" I asked, as I pulled off my belt to use as a tourniquet.

"My arm," he said through clenched teeth.

I heard another shot ring out and Bella screamed again. I looked up to see Jacob behind his truck with his own shotgun pointed at the barricade. I couldn't see Bella anywhere.

I grabbed my phone and dialed 911. As I gave them directions and mile markers Emmett lowered the back seat and pulled out the roadside emergency kit. He grabbed the flares and opened his door away from the direction of the shooting.

"Black, cover me," he yelled and when Jacob shot his rifle Emmett threw a lighted flare into the tall grass alongside the road next to the barricade. The dry weeds acted as kindling and a fire began to grow quickly. He threw a second one on the other side just as another shot rang out and hit the metal door, sending Emmett back into the vehicle as Jacob ran for the trees.

I watched as Jacob raised his gun and took sight of someone. He squeezed the trigger and a man yelled out from behind the barrier. The burning grass was causing smoke to cover the road and the fire was spreading quickly. I climbed out of the car and ran, keeping low, to the truck. I opened the passenger door and found Bella huddled on the floor.

I pulled her out and we ran to the back of the truck as shots rang out again. I looked over at Jacob to see the wood splinter by his eyes and he ducked in pain. Emmett was running up behind Jacob and took his shotgun from his hand.

I watched him raise the gun and look through the scope before a big smile grew on his face. He pulled the trigger and then quickly reloaded the gun with the shells Jacob was holding up. I could hear an engine come on and Emmett took off running through the trees.

Two shots rang out in quick succession and then a loud explosion knocked both me and Bella to the ground. The sound of debris falling onto the roadway and the roar of the fire blocked out all other sounds.

We all stayed perfectly still, and then slowly, one at a time, we began to gather and move back from the fire. Jasper and Jacob were in pain so we sat them against a tree along the road and out of danger. Emmett placed the gun on the ground and we simply stood and watched the flames climb into the air.

Police, fire trucks, and ambulances began to arrive. We were asked what happened and everyone looked at each other in confusion. We all had only a portion of the story and it had to be pieced together.

Jacob began by telling us about catching the James boys crossing his land years ago. They told him a bear had gotten the Swan's and they were looking for the child. Jacob didn't believe them and set out to find the family. He came across their bodies, thrown into an old mine shaft, and found Mrs. Swan still alive. She told him to find Bella, and protect her, and help her with the Rubies. He thought Bella was simple minded and spent years looking for the mine, but thought Mrs. Swan was confused from the blood loss.

When he found out the James' wanted Bella to marry a son so they could claim the land, he began tying her to him for protection. I told the officers about my assault and Bella saving me by pretending to marry one of them. I left out the pills, but said I came back for her and we hid in the mine. I took Bella to Chicago, where she was making preparations to open the mine, so we came back. I admitted we were suspicious of Jacob and Bella was wired to get his confession, which turned out to be unnecessary.

Jacob told them he came around the turn to find the road blocked and the James Family ready to take Bella from him, but he didn't know how they found out. I put my hand on his shoulder and told him about seeing Leah with one of the boys at my cabin before I left the last time.

Emmett admitted to starting the fire and when he saw Jacob get injured, he ran up to take the gun. Jacob had shot one man, and Emmett got another. The rest of the family jumped in the truck to run, but Emmett shot the gas tank and exploded the truck.

We finished with our tale and the officers look at us with wide eyes, each staring in stunned silence. One finally took a deep breath and said, "I'm not used to dealing with you mountain men, but you'll have to come into the station, so we can figure this out."

I laughed and squeezed Bella tightly. I was now a mountain man, one of the people I felt so removed from. The land had changed me, by breaking me, and then rebuilding me. I felt excitement rumble in my chest at the thought of reopening the school. Bella was safe, and nobody would be after us again.

We married right on time in August. Jasper officiated and Bella got her dream of marrying in the same church as her parents. We lived in the small cabin by the school and Bella spent every spare moment working on the build up of the mine.

I was sanding the windows, still determined to get them to open smoothly, when a young boy without shoes walked in.

"Mister, are you the teacher?" he asked me.

"I'm Mr. Cullen," I told him.

"My daddy wants to know how much we have to pay you for some learning," he asked.

"Show up on Monday at eight o'clock and that's all you have to do, no money," I told him with a smile.

"Do you own the Swan Mine?"

"No, my wife does," I explained.

"My daddy needs a job, he works at the mine over the ridge but it's a far walk," the boy said as he raised his head to look me in the eye.

"Tell him to show up at the mine Monday morning, too. His job will be waiting for him."

The boy looked at me for a second and then threw his arms around my waist, sticking my sweaty shirt to my stomach. I patted him a couple of times on the back and told him to let me get back to work. My soul soared with a feeling of accomplishment. I was finally the man I wanted to be. I was a Mountain Man.