A/N: We don't own this, we all know who does. What we do own is an unquenchable thirst for all things RPattz. Seriously, could that man possibly be any hotter? Ugh…he makes us tingle. And in a very good way… :D

PLEASE BE WARNED: This one shot was written for a contest that encourages stories NOT to end happily ever after! There may be such things as character death, adultery, abuse, depression, etc. In other words, sad, terrible, unhappy times, and it does not end GOOD! Please, be prepared.

This story has multiple POV's; Bella's is italicized, Edward's is plain, and Rosalie's is bold. Each scene is separated by a line. This is very important.

beegurl13 and Mrs. Robward collaborated day after day, gchat after gchat, phone call after phone call, and this is what we came up with. We went well over the contest's 15k word limit but we decided to post the UNCUT version here for you to read. The deleted scenes that add a little more depth to the plot have been added, so enjoy.

We are very proud to announce that WE WON 1st place by the readers! Exhaust was also chosen by a few of the judges for Best Plot Twist and Honorable Mention!

All of the entries can be found at www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net / u / 2733868 / (link in profile)

Thank you to loss4words81 and nitareality for hosting, also thanks goes to Risbee, BellaFlan, nitareality, and AgoodWitch for judging.

We want to extend special love to everyone who read, reviewed, and voted for exhaust. There were a lot of time and tears spent and shed on this fic. It was very dear to us and the win was ever so sweet because it was anonymous, YOU ACTUALLY LIKED WHAT WE WROTE!

beegurl13 made a beautiful banner, it is also linked on our profile.

Thanks to our superbeta, MaggieMay14. She's like, totally super duper, and we love her mega amounts.

Thanks to our prereaders, Twilight44, Unchanged Affections, and EdwardsBloodType. They are just the best, smartest, most thorough prereaders out there, and they're ours! So don't go getting any ideas about stealing them away…

Since this little writing venture seems to have gone so well, we're gonna do it again. Only this time it'll be a brand new story, with chapters and everything! It will be on this account, so if you're interested, make sure you have us on author alert so that when it comes time to post around August, you'll get the notice. :) The prologue is currently available on the Fandom for Sexual Assault Awareness compilation, a great cause and there are a LOT of wonderful stories from amazingly talented authors there. :)

Mrs. Robward here: I just want to mention how much I luv my twifey, beegurl13. I sincerely feel like she's done all the work and this fic wouldn't be what it was without her. I know I'll never tell which parts I wrote and which ones she did. I hope that our words blend and mix so well, that you can't tell either! It was so much fun and I can't wait to do it again! And please don't hate on our Edward, we do love him so.

beegurl13 here. :) I wanted to thank everyone for the support on this story, and for not hating it. We really did work many hours, and I even managed to erase the whole, complete thing in about 2 seconds one day. Needless to say, I sobbed for almost an hour until I figured out how to get it back. My sweet wifey...she wasn't even mad at me. :) I love and adore her. She's kinda wonderful. I wouldn't have attempted this without her. :) I really hope you enjoy this story for what we wanted it to be...honest, truthful, and realistic, as well as broken, frustrating, and beautiful.


exhaust – to drain, to use up, to deprive, to destroy

The diner had shitty coffee and the bathrooms smelt like stale piss, but I stopped there everyday, regardless. My daily visits were all because of her—the beauty with long, brown hair and sexy legs. The woman that blushed, quickly looking away every time she caught me staring at her. The one that could lick her lips and I'd have to adjust myself. Her simple smile made my whole day brighter, and she always asked, "What can I get'cha?" in a heavenly, shiver inducing voice. With a grin, I'd routinely order a black coffee, then shamefully miss her once she walked away. I wanted to initiate a conversation, but just smelling her perfume turned me into a blubbering fool. It was sweet, like sugar with a hint of fruit, pineapple maybe.

Week after week, I would wake up early to rush to the diner, and as soon as I walked in, she'd look my way and smile. We'd go about our morning, living like strangers, and talking only when we had to. I wanted to change that.

"What can I get'cha?" she asked. I looked up, meeting her eyes with a smile. She shook her head and looked down at her order pad, marking something on it. I glanced at the name tag on her breast, pretending it was the first time I'd ever looked, but honestly, I probably said her name in my sleep.

"Bella, is it?" Her name rolled off my lips, and I liked saying it.

"Yeah, it's Bella." Her pen bounced and she wiggled her hips a little as she stood there. She was so damn gorgeous.

"Hello, Bella." Yeah, I definitely liked it. "I'm Edward, Edward Cullen." I stood and extended my hand, waiting as she looked at me for a second, then tucked her pen behind her ear. Slowly reaching forward, she took my hand. Instantly I felt it—the warmth of forever. There was no doubt about it; this girl was it for me.

The first time he walked into the diner, it was pouring, and he was soaked. I probably wouldn't have looked up except for the crash of lightning that framed his drenched body as he stood shivering in the doorway. I couldn't understand why he kept coming back to the crappy little diner, since I knew that first visit was just so he could get out of the rain. But he did...every day, like clock work.

I wanted to flirt, but Alice said that I should be aloof and distant, whatever that meant. I didn't want to be—I wanted to tell him my name, phone number, birthday, favorite flower...but I didn't. Instead I smiled and took his order, knowing the rest of my day was all downhill after he walked out the door.

To say I was surprised when he finally asked my name would be an understatement. Edward...such an old fashioned name, yet it suited him perfectly. He was classic—charming and debonair, while still sweet and fuckhot. That's exactly what I wanted to do with him, though I'd never breathe a word of that to anyone. I was a nice girl who didn't think things like that. Though it was likely nice girls that lived up to that statement never dealt with someone like Edward Cullen.

After that first day, we talked a little more each morning. I was finding out all sorts of things about him and his life, and I couldn't get enough. He was like a drug, and I was completely addicted.

One Thursday morning as he got ready to leave, I fought to keep the smile on my face. My birthday was Saturday and I wanted to ask him over for dinner or to a movie or something, but I couldn't do it. Alice complained that I carried on about Edward each day after he left. She said I should either slut it up and ask him out, or accept my nice girl role and get over him.

"Hey Bella?" he called out, having moved to the cash register.

"Yeah? You need something else?" My fingers tapped lightly on the counter, wondering why he'd stopped on his way to the door. He'd never done that before.

"Um, I was wondering...if maybe...you wannagotoamoviethisweekend?"

"Excuse me?" I asked, really hoping I'd just heard what I thought I heard.

"Well, I was just thinking maybe we could hang out and see a movie or something. If you don't already have plans. Or a boyfriend. Shit, you have a boyfriend, don't you? Damn it, sorry about the cursing. Ah fu-...uh..." He was flustered, and it was so cute.

"I'd love to," I said. His eyes met mine and he smiled. I decided to not be such a nice girl for once. "But on one condition. You gotta buy me ice cream since it's my birthday on Saturday." My teeth sunk into my bottom lip as I raised my eyebrow suggestively.

He smiled, and I slid him a receipt with my phone number and address on the back. As he picked it up and read it, I was sure this would be the best birthday ever.

We stumbled into her apartment, barely getting the door closed behind us. "Off," I growled, pushing at the straps of Bella's tank top. Who knew fabrics could be so thin, and nipples so hard? I did, that's who, and I was trying my damnedest to get the yellow fabric up and over her head. I was sure it would look better on the floor.

We'd been dating for eight months, with lots of making out and feeling each other up. We didn't have sex often, between our schedules and ever present roommates, but when we did...it was like New Years Eve, The Fourth of July, and the Chinese New Year all rolled into one. This weekend Bella's roommate was out of town and Bella planned candles, wine, and romantic music. I planned a box of condoms and to fuck her senseless on every surface possible.

"Bend over," I said, spinning her around and pushing her over the back of the sofa. Pulling her skirt up around her hips, I slid my hand along her thigh and across her ass, grabbing the waistband of her red lace panties. Roughly I pulled them down to her knees, then moved my hand back up, and let my fingers get lost in her hot wetness. With my other hand, I unbuttoned my jeans and let them fall to the floor.

"Edward," she moaned as my fingers thrust into her. "That feels good, baby." She turned her head to look over her shoulder at me, and damn it all to hell if she didn't smirk and wink at me.

My hand that had been inside of her quickly wrapped around my throbbing cock, coating it with her. "You ready, baby?" I said, lining myself up with her opening. She gave a little grunt and I slammed into her with such force that her knees hit the back of the couch.

She laughed. "Don't break the furniture yet, we've got a long weekend to go still."

My fingers dug into her hips, pulling her body to mine and meeting me thrust for thrust. As her voice rose higher in pitch, her pussy got wetter and tighter. Before long I felt a tightening in my stomach and I knew I was close.

"You want me to pull out and get a condom?" I asked, only having a few moments of clear thinking left.

"No, I want you to cum on my ass," she said, her voice laced with lust and desire.

The way she said it turned me the fuck on and I reached down in front of her, letting my fingers find her clit. As she began screaming out my name, her inner walls clenched down on my dick. On her last moan, I pulled out of her, grabbing myself and pumping a few more times before the thick, white streams of cum shot out onto Bella's ass. I cringed when I saw some of it get on her skirt, because she always complained when she ended up pulling a Monica Lewinsky.

I collapsed on her—my chest against her back—struggling to catch my breath.

"Shit, baby, that was good," I said.

Bella giggled. "Yeah? There's plenty more where that came from." She straightened up, pushing us both back to standing. "I bought body paint for the bathtub, and melted chocolate and strawberries." Her little tongue peeked out and ran along her lower lip, as she stepped past me. When I turned around, on the floor lay her forgotten sandals and flowery skirt—creating a trail for me to follow. The water turned on in the shower, and I yanked at my shirt, stumbling over my pants as I sprinted for the bathroom.

This girl would be the death of me.

After dating him for a year, I knew I'd love him for the rest of my life. I couldn't imagine being without Edward Cullen. He gave me a reason to smile every morning, even when we were both too busy to see straight. I had college classes and the diner, he was finishing up law school and studying to take his bar exam, yet he always made time for me—for us. He reminded me everyday that he loved me. Before him, I never thought the kind of pure, deep love we shared was really attainable. I used to sit around, listening to everyone else's love stories and thinking to myself, where's mine? Then that fateful day he stumbled in the diner, and my fairy tale began.

With Edward, I always felt loved, cared for, desired. I felt as though I was the center of his universe and without a doubt, I knew he was mine.

It was my day off, and Edward asked me to meet him at the diner, which had become our sacred place. He told me to dress fancy, but the rest was a surprise. Alice greeted me with a wave as I walked in, biting her lips together. "What?" I asked her as I threw my hands up. "What's so funny?"

Her head lulled back and she laughed. "Nothing. I just like seeing you all dressed up." I smirked at her. "Edward said sit as his usual table. He'll be here in a few," she yelled, stepping into the kitchen.

"Fine," I grumbled as I swatted the crumbs out of the chair before sitting.

Alice brought out an orange soda and placed it in front of me. "So where are you two going tonight for your big anniversary date?"

"It's not really our anniversary, we're not married." I held up my empty finger and wiggled it at her. "We're just celebrating that we've been dating a year and I don't know where we're going. He said it was a surprise."

"Duh, that's what an anniversary is Bella." She huffed as she stood up and walked away.

Seconds later, the bell on the door rattled and he walked in. The air in my lungs quickly escaped—he never failed to take my breath away. My heart rate accelerated as I took in his attire, coming completely undone at the sight of him in a black suit.

"Hi," I whispered as he kissed my cheek.

"Hey beautiful." He tucked a wayward strand of hair behind my ear.

"So, what's the plan for the night?" I took in a deep breath to regain my composure.

"Let's just have a drink." He shrugged and then turned to yell at Alice asking her to bring him a coke.

We wasted about thirty minutes talking about our week, and I was growing more impatient with every sip he took. It wasn't how I'd imagined us spending our night out.

"Edward, let's go. Come on!" I clasped my hands together. "Please?"

He laughed, "Okay, okay." He leaned forward to whisper in my ear. "Save the begging for later."

I slapped his arm as he motioned for Alice to bring over the check.

I pulled out my compact, fixing my lip stick. I heard Alice place the plastic tray that held the bill on the table. Without even looking, I reached over to grab the peppermint off the top, but there was no mint and I retracted my hand as though I'd been burned.

I looked up as Edward was getting to his feet. He picked up the tray, then knelt down on one knee in front of me. My eyes were tearing up and I thought I might fall out of my seat. Looking down at the brown tray, my hands immediately covered my mouth. There was a platinum ring with a huge diamond lying on top of the standard diner bill.

"This is for you," Edward said with an unsure voice, lifting the tray closer to me.

With a shaky hand I picked up the ring and examined it, tears freely running down my cheeks.

"Read it," he encouraged as he nodded and lifted the tray again.

I shook my head and picked up the slip of paper.

Marry Me?

Yours Forever,


He'd written it, I could tell his elegant handwriting anywhere. "Are you serious?" I half laughed and half cried.

"Bella, if I could reach out and hold a star for every single time you've made me smile, the sky would be in the palm of my hand. For once in my life, I don't have to try to be happy. When I'm with you, it just happens. Please do me the honor of being my wife." He reached for my trembling hand and uncurled my fist that held the ring.

Bringing my hand to his lips, he kissed my knuckles. When he raised his eyebrows, his green eyes twinkling with unshed tears, I realized I hadn't answered him yet. "Oh no. I'm sorry," I cried out and his face fell in shock.

I held back my laugh. "No, no. Edward, I'm sorry that I haven't answered you yet." I smiled and tried to stand even though my legs were wobbly. "I would love nothing more than to marry you and spend forever with you, Edward Cullen."

"Really?" He asked as he slipped the ring on my finger before his arms found purchase around my waist and pulled me closer.

"Definitely," I whispered in his ear, wrapping my arms around his neck. The catcalls and shouts of the diner faded away as he lifted my feet off the ground and twirled me around.

Watching Bella walk down the aisle was surreal—I couldn't believe how lucky I was to find her. The way her white dress hugged her body took my mind to completely inappropriate places, especially considering the fact we were in a church and her police chief father was walking along side her. When we vowed to love each other forever, I knew we both meant it. There would never be another woman for me. Bella was my life and my future, and I couldn't wait to really start living.

The only black cloud in our perfect sky was my family. For some reason they were hesitant about our marriage. A few different times Bella mentioned things that my parents had said to her, but I hoped that with time, they'd eventually come around. I couldn't wait for us to get started on our own family, even though she insisted we needed to wait a few years. Neither of us had grown up in a role model situation, and Bella was scared that we'd mess up our kids the way our parents tried to mess us up.

"Baby, you done?" I called to her from the bed in our honeymoon suite. Bella had been locked in the bathroom for nearly half an hour, and I was getting anxious, and a little worried. "You didn't fall in, did you?" I said with a chuckle.

"I'll be out in a minute," she said, her voice sounding strange. I jumped up from the bed, hurrying to the door.

"Bella? What's going on? You okay?"

"Um, can you call Alice, please?"

Alice? It was our wedding night and she wanted Alice? It wasn't like we hadn't had sex before, so I was confused about what was happening. It was just me, so why would she be nervous or scared?

"Bella, what's wrong? Can I help?"

"No, I just need Alice. I forgot something."

Pressing my hands against the door, I lowered my voice to a softer tone. "Baby, open the door. What do you need? I'll get it." I listened to her labored breaths on the other side of the wood door that stood between us. "Please, let me help."

After several seconds the door slowly opened, and there Bella stood, in a sheer, lacy robe and nothing else. The way she looked nearly brought me to my knees, and I couldn't wait to have her in my hands. I looked back up to her face, tears rolling down her cheeks. "I forgot my nightie." A sob bubbled from her chest and she fell into my arms. I wanted to scoop her up and carry her to bed—she looked amazing—but she needed me.

"Baby," I said, tilting her head up so that I could see her eyes. "You are the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."

"Edward, how can you say that? I'm standing here in this see through robe." Her eyes closed as her bottom lip began to shake. "I wanted this to be so perfect, and I had a pretty night gown picked out and everything. This was supposed to be special..."

Swiping my thumbs across her cheeks, I wiped away her tears. "It doesn't matter to me what you wear. As long as you're mine, tonight is perfect. And baby, I've never wanted you more than I do right now."

Her eyes widened and she pressed her teeth into her bottom lip, sighing as I backed away. My eyes scanned up and down her body, taking in her taut stomach, the curve of her hips, and her perfect, creamy breasts.

"Bella...you're so beautiful."

She smiled a bit and I took her hand, leading her to the bed before sliding the robe off her shoulders.

"Edward, why didn't you stand up for me!" I fumed.

"Bella, you're overreacting. My mother didn't mean anything by it." Edward lifted his wine glass and took another drink.

"Are you being serious right now? She called me trash, Edward! No count TRASH! She said I should take cooking lessons before I decide to cook again for her family. Who does she think she is?" I'd never been so hurt and insulted in all my life.

I'd always been well aware of the fact that Edward's family didn't think I was good enough to marry their precious prince. Even after seven years of marriage, I was still thought of as a gold digger but not once until tonight had it ever been said to my face.

"You're as crazy as she is if you believe that she was not insulting me, Edward! It was bad enough that my mother shows up with a man half her age. The last thing I needed was your mother rubbing it in." I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.

"All I wanted was for just once to have Thanksgiving here at our home, with all our families, and that everyone would get along. Instead, dinner turned into the fucking Jerry Springer Show!" I angrily wiped the tears off my face. "My mother was probably stoned. My father wouldn't even take off a day from work to come. Then your mother..." I started pacing the kitchen floor. "She reminds everyone how perfect she is while your dad, he just avoids everything because no one wants to upset him and then him have another heart attack!" I threw my hands up in the air.

"Bella, please." He walked up behind me and trapped me against the sink. "I'm sorry my mother insulted you and that I didn't tell her to shut her stupid mouth." I turned around and rested my forehead on his chest. "We don't need them baby. Next Thanksgiving, let's piss'em all off and go on a cruise. And maybe I won't be able to take off work this Christmas and we won't be able to leave town to visit anyone."

I didn't hide my smile. "Seriously? I'm really kind of traumatized over all this. It was a living nightmare, Edward."

He wrapped his arms around me and the comfort of his love settled me down. "I'm serious babe. How about tonight we leave this mess in the kitchen. We pack a bag and take Claire to the Nickelodeon Hotel downtown and check in for the weekend. I'll call the cleaning service first thing in the morning and tell them it's an emergency and that they need to come and clean up."

"That sounds perfect Edward. You'd do that for me?" I squeezed him a little tighter.

"I'll do anything for you Bella. It's me and you forever. Just me and you and these babies. That's all that matters to me." He moved his hand to my stomach, rubbing over the slight baby bump that had recently began to show.

"I love you so much." I stood on my toes and kissed his cheek. "I'm going to go pack."

As I sat rocking the baby to sleep, I couldn't help but look around the room and marvel at how mine and Bella's lives had changed. My job as a junior partner at the law firm paid well, and we were able to buy the house of our dreams. We were lucky enough to fill it with two of the most beautiful children ever born. Our little Claire was almost three, and so excited about being a big sister. I watched her face when she met Paul for the first time, and I didn't think I'd ever forget the way her eyes sparkled. "He smells funny, Daddy," she said in her soft voice.

Paul squirmed in my arms and I wished Bella was home to care for him. She was still in the hospital recovering from his birth. Things with his delivery hadn't gone well, and to stop Bella's hemorrhaging, her doctors had to perform a hysterectomy. Bella was devastated that she'd never have any more children, but I assured her we'd find a way. All I cared about was that Bella was here with me. She was what I needed most in my life, and as long as I had her, I knew we could handle anything that came our way.

Looking at my son's face, I realized it wasn't just Bella that I needed. I'd never again be complete without Claire and Paul, too. We were a family, and the shadowbox on the table next to me was proof of that. I looked over the items that Bella had lovingly encased in it—a picture of us on our second date, the receipt I'd proposed to her with, even the pregnancy test when Bella found out about Claire. I was right were I wanted to be.

The birthday party was in full swing. The kids were having a great time with the piñata, though Paul was a little dangerous with the bat. Claire cried the first time he hit her, then lost her temper the second time. Paul was a sobbing, snotty mess, but as soon as Claire saw him, she transformed into mother mode. It had always been that way with them, though it still surprised me every time.

"Paul," Claire said, "you hafta be more careful. You made a big owie on my head. I love you, but sometimes you drive me crazy."

Paul just sniffled, nodding at his sister's words before grabbing onto her and hugging with all the strength in his little two year old arms. "Wuv you, Cwaiwe," he said. He idolized his big sister, and had been her shadow since the day he could walk.

Edward and I sat together at the picnic table, smiling at our two sweet children. They were the light of lives, and made us happier than we ever imagined possible. Edward took my hand, lacing our fingers, then leaned over and kissed me lightly. "I love you so much," he whispered. I smiled, knowing he meant it.

Things hadn't been easy, but as we approached our tenth anniversary, we had settled into a rhythm. Edward's family didn't come around, and it was accepted that his mother and I didn't get along. I didn't want to be the person who split up his family, so I encouraged Edward to take the kids and see them, but he refused. "You are my family, Bella, and if my parents won't accept that, then it's their loss," is what he always said. I loved him for it, but I wondered if someday he'd regret it.

Aside from my parents, the closest thing we had to family were Alice and her husband, Jasper. She was like a sister to me. She had planned Paul's birthday party, and it had been a perfect day—just one of many in what was our amazing life. Even with little bumps along the road, we were happy and together, and that's all we needed. As long as we were together, and our babies were with us, I knew we'd be happy. We'd be perfect.

"Edward, get to the emergency room, there's been an accident."

How the hell Bella could leave me with nothing but a message like that was beyond me, and as I raced through the streets, my mind ran in a million different directions. Was she okay? Had something happened to one of the kids? I ran into the building, my eyes searching for her.

The waiting room wasn't nearly as crowded as I imagined, and I easily found Bella sitting off to the side. Relief washed over her face when she saw me, and she jumped up and grabbed onto me, hugging me tightly.

"Babe, what's going on? What happened?"

"I don't know, they called and said there was an accident with Alice and the kids. I got here but they told me to sit down, someone would come talk to me soon, but no one has. What does that mean?"

It was our ten year anniversary, and Bella's best friend, who the kids always called Aunt Alice, had offered to take them for the night, giving us some alone time. She and her husband Jasper were excited since Alice was a few months away from having their first baby. Alice was going to pick the kids up after school and keep them until the next afternoon.

"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen?" a voice from behind me called.

Turning around, I saw a middle aged man, what looked to be a surgical cap in his hands. "Yes?" I said, suddenly feeling a sense of dread wash over me.

"Can you come with me, please?"

I took Bella's hand and we followed him down a long, white corridor. The clean smell burned my nose a little and I swallowed, trying to fight back the sudden urge to vomit. He led us to a small room with several chairs and a round end table. After we sat down, the doctor settled uncomfortably into a chair directly across from us.

"As you know there was an accident involving your friend and children. From what we've gathered, a cement truck failed to stop at a red light, and Mrs. Whitlock was unable to avoid colliding with it. The car was hit on the passenger's side." He took a deep breath before letting his eyes fall to the floor for a second. Suddenly I was shaking—this was bad. "I'm sorry, we did the best we could, there was just so much damage. Your children were both seated on the side of impact, and-"

"Which one?" Bella's quiet voice whispered.

"I'm sorry?" the doctor asked. Why couldn't I remember his name? Had he told us his name?

"Which one was it? Which of my children is dead?"

The doctor looked back and forth between Bella and I, sorrow in his face as his eyes began to glisten with fresh tears.

"I'm so sorry, there were no survivors..."

I sat outside in the hallway on the hardwood floor, the door slightly opened as I listened to Bella's muffled sobs. Today she was on Claire's bed, a pink pillow clutched desperately in her arms.

I quickly swallowed the bile that rose in my throat. I didn't know what to do anymore. My babies were gone, and with them they'd taken their mother's soul.

The days immediately following the accident, Bella was strong and tentative. Looking back now I could see she was too strong, and most likely in shock or denial. I admired her for her bravery, strength, and compassion, looking after everyone but herself.

Things went downhill fast. I noticed each day she became a little more distant, more sad. She went from only crying at night, to crying all day. Earlier and earlier she'd go to bed, until one day, she didn't get up at all.

Her wails became stronger and it brought me out of my remembrance. Her voice hiccupped as she cried out Claire's name and I couldn't hold back. I began to cry, too. I felt so useless and beaten, and I just wanted us to get through this. I wanted her to lean on me, so I could lean on her. Why didn't she understand that we couldn't be alone if we were together?

Slowly I stood and pushed the door open. The sight of her curled up on the pink bed rocked me to my core. It was something no man wanted to see of his beloved. Her grip on Claire's pillow was so firm, her knuckles white, the thin skin on the back of her hands stretching tight. She didn't even move or acknowledge my presence.

I knelt down at the edge of the bed and brushed her hair away from her face. "Bella? Baby?" I could barely speak through my tears. "Baby, it's going to be okay."

She cried louder.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. You have every right to miss them. And you know what? I miss them too, baby. I miss their laughter...the way Claire sang along with the radio in the car. I miss the way Paul climbed up in my lap when he was tired, just wanting me to hold him." I cried harder as the pain of remembering rippled inside me. "I miss that so much."

I continued to stroke her hair. "But Bella, I miss you, too. I miss your smile and your giggle. The way you tickle my back in the mornings. I miss kissing you before I leave for work and you wiping your lip stick off my lips. I miss looking in your eyes and seeing the beautiful woman I married. I miss fighting with you and getting to make up afterward. I miss hearing you whisper my name. I miss all that, too, baby. I need you, Bella. Please..."

"Bella, I can't do this anymore."

His voice sounded far away. I didn't know what he was talking about. What? What couldn't he do?

"You need help, Bella. I can't sit here and watch you like this. I can barely get myself out of bed everyday."

His voice was starting to shake. Staring straight ahead, I couldn't look at his face. I never looked at his face anymore, it hurt too much. He looked so much like her, and any time I caught the green in his eyes or the red in his hair, I was instantly taken back to that day.

She was so beautiful. So peaceful and still. Too still. I wrapped her hair around my finger over and over again, watching the little ringlets bounce away each time. Her white lacy dress was so pretty, clean. Her lips...they looked so soft, yet when I touched them, they were cold. My baby was gone. Both of them were gone, and I would never look at Edward the same way again.

"I think you should go stay with your mother. I called her and she's worried too, Bella. She's coming to pick you up." He knelt down in front of me, forcing me to look at him. "Please, Bella. This hurts me, too. They were my kids too, Bella. I don't know what else to do."

Tears slid down his cheeks, yet I felt nothing. I was dead inside, just like my babies. I wanted to wipe his tears away, to reach out and wrap my arms around him. I wanted to tell him that I loved him and would try harder. I wanted to...but I didn't. I couldn't. My perfect life was over—gone in one careless moment. If only...

His head lay in my lap as he sobbed. "I love you so much, Bella. I'm sorry I'm not strong enough for you. I love you, but I can't help you. I can't anymore, baby. This is just too hard, I'm so sorry."

I wanted to soothe him, rub my fingers through his hair, cry with him...but I didn't.

I just let him go.

His little pair of red shoes sat by the front door. It had been months, yet I never bothered to move them. Their bedrooms were still the same. If a stranger walked in the house, they'd swear a normal family lived there, not a broken, shell of a man that had lost everything. Thoughts of selling the house crossed my mind several times, but I couldn't do it. The memories I had there were all that was left of them. Those haunting images were like air to me.

My mother came one day with her maid, intent on packing up the kids stuff and giving it to charity. I threw her out and hadn't spoken to her since. She wouldn't use my heartache and loss as a way to get ahead, look like she actually gave a shit about my children. She didn't care about them, and I didn't care about her.

I was lonely. Bella never said anything or looked at me when I called or visited. Renee said Bella was seeing a therapist. Maybe I needed one, too. For the moment, all I really needed was another drink. That seemed to numb things pretty well, and I didn't have to put up with pity stares.

"Hey, Edward. Whatcha havin'?" the waitress asked. Her name was Rosalie, and she was nice. We always made small talk about stupid, mundane things. A few times she gave me a ride home, when I'd had too much to drink and I told her there was no one to call. I'm sure she thought I was a horrible father and husband when she helped me into my house, toys sitting in the corner of the room, and their pictures all over the walls.

One night she wasn't as happy as normal. When I asked why, she started crying. She reminded me of Bella—broken. She told me her fiancé had called it quits. Apparently there was a girl he worked with, and Rose caught them in a rather awkward position. The guy, Emmett, insisted it was nothing, but Rose didn't buy it. After her confession I took a deep breath and told her my own story. Her eyes filled with tears when I talked about the day I buried them. How sweet they looked, and how much I missed just the smell of them or their giggly laughs.

Staring at Rose, I wondered if I could ever feel for her what I felt for Bella. Rosalie looked like a runway model, but there was no spark, no connection other than friendship. She understood me, and for months she was the only person I talked to, the only person that saw how devastated I was. Her smile and laugh got me through the hardest times—the nights when I thought it would just be easiest to end it all.

And every time I was with her, no matter how many months had gone by, I still wished she was Bella.

I watched the rain droplets splatter on the glass of the window pane, slowly rolling downward. I touched the cool glass, my fingers lingering there for a moment, remembering their cold, hard skin.

My eyes began to fill again. I hated it, everything reminded me of them, of everything that would never be—what I'd never have again. A mother should never have to live without the warmth of her children's arms around her neck. I couldn't even stand to be awake, to be conscious. Everything reminded me that I'd lost them all.

So many people told me that with time, it would hurt less. That with time, I'd find a way to move on. That with time, my life would resume and I could live again. They were all liars. Time was nothing but an enemy.

Minute by minute the emptiness consumed me. Hour by hour the ache in my heart grew. The hollowness in my chest soon ballooned until I was immune to everything, but the pain, the depression—nothing remained inside of me but loss.

There were moments when I felt like maybe I wanted to try and live again. Maybe I could move on with Edward, but I knew that there was no way to do that. I couldn't, I had nothing left to love with and there was no more life in me. I should have died that day, too.

My mother seemed to think it was a good idea for me to see my shrink biweekly. I let her think whatever in the hell she wanted, as long as she continued to let me be.

I hated going into his office. Just inside the door, there was a big, white flower pot, just like the one that sat by Paul's casket at the funeral. It made my stomach twist and I wanted to throw up each time I saw it. I went in anyway, closing my eyes as I walked past it.

He spoke softly and I nodded or smiled when I thought I should. I always lied and said I was taking my medication regularly. I just wanted to be alone. Alone was where I gave into the misery. Alone I could cry for my babies until my eyes swelled shut. Alone I could miss my husband. Alone no one asked how I was, or what I needed. Alone there was no explaining how I constantly lived with regret, that my heart beat the sound of wretchedness.

Daily, I continued on the same way, regardless of the grief that made my whole body ache, and reminded myself of the necessities. Breathe. Wash. Breathe. Smile. Breathe. Eat. Breathe. Drink. Breathe. Rest. Breathe.



"Bella, answer the fucking phone!" I yelled, leaving yet another message on her voice mail. "Please, Bella, talk to me. Today, of all days, please..."

I waited in silence until I heard the beep ending my connection to her. It had been one year to the day since the accident. One year since our lives had been completely turned upside down, since I'd felt anything other than hurt, anger, or despair. I was tired, overwhelmed with work, and trying to forget about everything.

The bar was quiet as Rose wiped down the counter, stretching across it. I noticed her boobs just grazing the surface as she leaned over. She was gorgeous, but I didn't feel anything for her.

"You've had too much, Sam's cutting you off. Besides, we're closing soon," she joked as she walked toward me. "You got a ride tonight? Need me to call you a cab or something?" she asked, concern etched across her face.

"No, I drove."

She laughed. "Well, you're not driving home, that's for sure. You want me to call someone?" She looked at me with sadness in her eyes—she knew there was no one to call. "I'll take you. Won't be the first time, right?"

"Rosie, I'm heading out!" Sam called from the door.

"Okay, I'm almost done. I'll lock up."

I watched as she carried a few cases into the backroom. Thinking I should offer to help, I got off my stool and followed her through the door.

"Edward, get outta here, you're not supposed to be back here," she said, placing her hand in the middle of my chest and pushing playfully. I wrapped my hand around hers and held it there.

"I just wanna help you. What can I do?"

She sighed. "I should be asking you that same question." We stood looking at each other for a moment, and I couldn't help noticing how blue her eyes were. I was so used to brown, but the blue was a welcomed change.

Before I realized what I was doing, my mouth was on hers, pressing hard against her lips. She stood hesitant, then relaxed into my arms, returning the kiss with fervor. My hands wrapped around her waist and were soon under her shirt, grasping the bare skin of her back.

"Edward?" she asked, her voice breathless and filled with desire.

"Please, help me forget. Please, just for tonight, I need to feel something."

Her eyes searched mine. Her break up with Emmett had been hard on her, and she needed comfort just like I did. Slowly, she lifted her arms above her head, letting me pull her shirt up and over. Once it was gone, my fingers found the clasp of her bra, and in an instant my lips were on her chest, sucking and biting at her soft, supple breasts.

Her body was different than Bella's, and I was glad—it didn't hurt my heart as much, and made it less real. My thumb rubbed back and forth across her nipple and she moaned, letting her fingers tangle in my hair. Pushing her against the shelves, I ground my pelvis against hers. I hadn't been so consumed by lust in over a year, and the alcohol in my body numbed everything that wasn't Rosalie.

Once my pants were unzipped, her hand grabbed my dick, holding it tightly as she stroked up and down. Stumbling around the room, I lifted her onto a counter top, pushing up the skirt she was wearing until it bunched around her hips. My fingers found the edge of her black, lacy panties, and I remembered Bella wearing something similar. Shaking my head, I willed the memory away, not wanting to tarnish the past with what I'd become.

When my fingers pushed into Rose's wet pussy, she moaned, leaning forward and pulling me into a kiss. As our tongues slid against each other, I could taste more than just the liquor I'd consumed that night. She was sweet, like chocolate and peaches, and different. My cock ached to be inside her, and I pulled out my slick fingers, lining myself up with her slit. Just before pushing in, I saw her eyes, reality hitting me like a ton of bricks. She wasn't the right girl.

"Rose, I'm sorry," I said, stumbling backward.

"No, Edward, it's okay," she pleaded, grabbing hold of my face and forcing my eyes to meet hers. "I'm her, okay? I'll be her."

"Bella?" I said, looking closer at Rose. They were so different—night and day—but maybe...if I really tried... "Turn around," I said, spinning her and pushing her body against the brick wall. I grabbed her underwear, pushing it to the side before I slowly slid my dick into her. The feel of her surrounding me was incredible, and I closed my eyes and let my fingers grab her hips. As I began to pump in and out, her moans filled the air and I went faster.

"Yes, Edward...oh yeah..." she said, her voice a whisper.

"Bella," I chanted over and over again in my head, but when Rose began to reply, I knew I was probably saying it out loud, too.

"Yes, Edward, Bella. I'm Bella..."

I closed my eyes as tightly as I could, the overwhelming feel of her surrounding me. I came hard, pulsing into her as I pumped a few more times. She was quiet, softly sniffling.

"Bella," I whispered, tears stinging my eyes. "I love you." She turned in my arms, wrapping hers around me as I cried.

"I'm here, Edward," she said, her voice tender and sweet. "I'm here, it's okay."

My tears slid down Rosalie's bare shoulder as I cried for the life I'd lost. I missed my Bella, more than anything. I'd always thought that if I at least had her, I could make it through any problems that came my way. Then just when things couldn't seem any darker, I lost her, too. I didn't tell Rosalie the truth, I let her believe Bella was dead, because even though that wasn't quite true, I felt like it was.

It was late, and Edward was at my apartment again. Things between us were comfortable. There was no great love, no illusion that that's what this was. What we had was friendship, mutual understanding, and a need to comfort one another. He was easy to forget with. When I was kissing him, or he was touching me, my mind could go blank and there was nothing else for me to worry about.

"I saw Emmett's sister today," I said.

"Oh yeah? How was that?" he asked as he ran his fingers up and down my naked back.

"She said he misses me. I wish that was true, but I doubt it. I mean, I'm sure Carmen keeps him more than occupied."

Edward's lips pressed softly to my shoulder. "You never know, maybe he does. You still have a chance to fix things, Rose. You don't know what I'd give for that."

I rolled onto my side, facing him. "I'm sorry, I know." I traced my fingers along his cheek, happy that the dark circles that had been under his eyes for so long were finally fading. I secretly hoped maybe that had a little to do with me. I wanted to make him better, to help him get over losing his family so that he could move on and have a life again.

"Don't apologize, it's not your fault. You're the only good thing in my life right now."

I wrapped my arm around his neck, bringing him closer to me. Our lips met as I pulled him down onto my body, our flesh bare and aching to feel, craving pressure.

I didn't think about Emmett any more that night.

"Bella, I know you're there. I can hear you breathing." Nothing but silence. "Please talk to me." She sniffed and it sounded like she sighed.

"Bella, I know what tomorrow is. I can't quit thinking about it either. It hurts, this ache in my chest. I miss them so much." I needed her to know.

"Edward," her shaky voice was barely above a whisper. "I can't...I don't..."

My tears spilled over and trickled down my cheeks as I slid off the edge of the bed and sat on the floor. Covering my eyes with one hand, I held the phone with the other. I hadn't heard her voice in so long, and her calling for me ripped to shreds the last remnants of my heart. "It's alright Bella, I'm here. I'll come get you. We can spend the night at the cemetery next to our babies, if that's what you need." My chest rose and fell with my silent sobs, I'd be strong for her, if she asked. I'd try my damnedest to be the man I used to be.

Bella was waiting for me on Renee's porch when I got there, and the ride to Northridge was spent in total silence. Now and then she'd sniff and wipe her nose. Looking at her, I noticed how much weight she'd lost, how limp and stringy her hair was, and the dark circles under her eyes. All of the life that used to be there was gone, yet I still loved her more than anything.

After we parked, I wrapped my arm around her waist and helped her walk to their plots. Once we were close enough to touch the cool granite, tracing their names with our fingers, she folded into me, unable to stand on her own.

Her sobs echoed through the early morning air, and I lowered us both to sit between their headstones. She wailed and cried and soon I couldn't keep back my grief anymore.

We sat holding each others, sometimes crying, sometimes not. The sun rose high in the sky, yet to both Bella and I, this day would forever be cloaked in darkness. It'd been two years since we'd lost our babies—our lives forever changed for the worst.

She took a deep breath and slightly relaxed. Taking advantage, I kissed the top of her head. "I want you to know Bella, no matter what, I love you. I always will."

"I know, Edward. I'm sorry," she whispered.

"Don't be, you have nothing to be sorry for. Just get better and come back to me." I hugged her tighter, feeling her nod against my chest. I wanted that more than anything.

I don't know how it happened. There wasn't a particular morning that I woke up and suddenly I felt different, but somehow I did.

Right after we'd lost the kids, I saw the world in gray. I stopped having hope and faith, and I believed there was nothing beautiful left on earth. I couldn't see the deep green of the moss covered river bank, or the yellows of the new spring blooms in the yard. Everything was dark, dull, and ugly.

I started feeling a little better. Maybe it was the new medication I'd been taking, or Edward visiting more frequently. Maybe it was that I'd finally decided there might be something worth living for. The emptiness was always there, but now I was able to ignore it and breathe easier.

Lying in my bed, the sun shone through the window—golden rays dancing around my childhood bedroom and spreading out into bars across the walls. Sometimes I raised my hand and intercepted the warmth, just to feel it on my skin. Sometimes the sky could be so blue it took my breath away. There was a sparkle of white in my mother's hair that made me smile. I wondered if it was possible that time had slowed down and waited on me? What if I really still had living left to do?

Climbing out of bed, I decided I needed out of the house. It was kind of exciting—thinking about where to go. The Diner kept running though my mind, and I really had missed it.

My feet hurt from the walk, but I welcomed the ache, glad it was something besides sorrow. I kept my head down, not making eye contact with anyone. Getting better was a gradual climb and I'd only just begun the ascension—I didn't want to be pushed.

My steps quickened the closer I got. I felt like if I didn't hurry, the diner might disappear, taking away all my memories. So much had happened there—so many memories, most of which included Edward. The diner was a staple of our relationship, where we went to hang out, to eat, to laugh, and to cry. Even after I quit working there, Edward would find me there when I'd had a bad day, seeking solitude in the backroom. He'd sit beside me, not saying a word, and just hold my hand. He knew me well.

Reaching the edge of the building, my heavy feet and stiff legs slowed. I hadn't been here in years, the last time when I brought Paul and Claire for ice cream the day before the accident. I rested my hand on the window, closing my eyes as the memory of their laughter filled my heart. I missed them so much, but for once, it felt good to think about them.

Someone exited the diner, causing the bell on the door to ring. Opening my eyes, I looked around and heard a familiar voice. It echoed through my bones, because it sounded like my Edward.

I peered into the window and scanned the patrons. The first place I looked was our table. When I saw him sitting there, the air rushed out of me—he wasn't alone. There was a beautiful woman by his side. They were drinking coffee and laughing, so much. They were friendly and Edward looked...happy. I couldn't believe my eyes.

Her hand grazed his arm and as her touch lingered, he smiled at her, desire in his eyes. There was no pity like when he looked at me. He bit his bottom lip when she leaned forward, resting her head on his shoulder as her hand dipped under the table.

Edward leaned back in his chair, his legs straightening and protruding from the other side of the table. Hurt and jealousy bubbled up in me, yet I couldn't look away. Her arm moved in strokes under the table as his mouth fell slightly open.

Vomit rose in my throat.

The diner wasn't ours anymore.

What did I have left?

My week was looking up, and I was excited. Bella had called a few days earlier, wanting to meet and talk. Renee told me Bella was finally having some breakthrough's, and those, along with new medication, were getting her back to the old Bella. The Bella I missed. My Bella.

When I'd met Rose for lunch on Tuesday, she was incredibly supportive, agreeing to meet at the diner since we were both in a rush. Being there with her was hard—the last time I'd been there was with Bella and the kids. I told Rose stories, like Bella and I's engagement. She loved how spunky Claire was when she stood on the table and yelled for the waitress to bring her dinner faster. She even laughed about the time Paul threw up all over the counter just after drinking grape soda. It felt good to talk about my family with someone I cared about. Rose and I were supportive of one another, and it was too bad there weren't deeper feelings between us. She was a great girl, just not the right girl.

She never failed to surprise me, though, like when she reached under the table and began stroking my dick. I wanted to tell her to stop, but it felt too good. Over the past year we'd become "friends with benefits," though we hadn't had sex in almost a month, our schedules never coinciding. Feeling her hand on me was incredible, and after a few minutes, I pulled her out of the restaurant. I fucked her in the backseat of my car for almost an hour—letting her ride me and then pounding into her from behind. We were both late for our afternoon appointments, but I didn't care—I finally felt good, and I loved it.

"Mr. Cullen, you have a visitor," Lauren called out over the intercom. With no meeting until after lunch, I wondered who it was. Straightening my desk, I stood and walked toward the door. Half way there, it opened, and I was surprised when Rosalie came in.

"What are you doing here?" I asked, smiling as I placed my hand on her waist and pulled her in to lightly kiss her cheek.

She held a basket in her hand. "Well, I was just thinking about yesterday, and I thought maybe we could have a picnic today." She smiled brightly, holding up the basket and lifting the lid to reveal sandwiches, chips, cheesecake, and sodas.

I laughed, loving how thoughtful she was. "I'd love that. I don't have any clients for awhile, so we have lots of time."

"Really?" she asked, starting to twist back forth a bit as she batted her eyelashes at me.

"Yeah, why? What are you thinking?"

He watched closely as I sat down the basket, then moved my fingers to the belt of my jacket. I was surprised he wasn't curious, since it had been unseasonably warm and I was wearing a full length trench coat. Of course, he didn't know the only thing underneath it was a very see through negligee. Pulling the coat lapels open, I heard his breath catch. The coat fell to the floor, and I stepped toward him, feeling extremely erotic in four inch stilettos.

"Can you tell what I'm thinking?"

His eyes were glued to my breasts, my nipples hard due to the cold temperature of the room.

"Ah shit, Rose," he said, slowly guiding his hands up my bare arms.

"Remember a few months ago when you told me that little office fuck fantasy you had?" I hoped he would recall his desire to bend me over his desk and pound into me from behind.

"Uh huh, I remember." He swallowed, his voice tighter than usual. Glancing down at his pants, I was happy to see the hard on he was suddenly sporting.

I licked my lips, trailing my fingernails down the edge of his tie. "I think we should work up an appetite, don't you?"

"Mhmm," he moaned, pulling my body against him and kissing my neck. My hands played in his hair while his hot mouth left wet kisses on my throat. He covered my lips with his, softly stoking his tongue against mine as his hands slid down my sides and over my hips. He grasped my ass and pulled me tight against him; his cock was hard as it pushed against my stomach.

"I think you like my surprise," I cooed, guiding his head and mouth toward my aching nipples. He latched onto me, sucking through the thin material and scraping my tit with his teeth as he carefully bit down. He felt good, his body matching perfectly with mine. It was like we were made for one another, except that we were both in love with other people. I knew he really only wanted his wife, and he knew I wanted Emmett, but we got past that. We had learned to just live in the moment and enjoy what comfort and pleasure we could find.

His hand slid around my hip, following the soft lacy trim on my panties. Once his finger reached the apex of my thighs, he pushed in, letting me feel him against my throbbing clit.

"Open your legs, you naughty girl," he said against my quivering skin. I did as I was told, and he plunged his fingers into me, pushing them deep as they wiggled back and forth.

"Ugh, Edward," I called out, trying to keep my voice down.

Moving my hands to his pants, they were undone and opened in a matter of seconds. I needed him inside me, and I couldn't wait any longer. With his dick in my hand, I stroked him, letting my thumb slide over the tip. He continued sucking my breasts while he fingered me, making me weak in the knees.

"On the desk," he said, before kissing me hard on the mouth one last time, then spinning me around. He pushed me down onto the surface—the stapler jabbing roughly into my shoulder, but I craved the pain. It meant I was going to get good and fucked.

Talking to Edward made me excited to see him, but after finding him with another woman at the diner, I was nearly broken. I told my mother what I'd seen, and after much coaxing, she convinced me that I must have been seeing things. Edward loved me, and would never be dating anyone else. It was just a misunderstanding, it had to be.

Needing to see him sooner, I got dressed and hurried downtown, hoping to catch him before he left for lunch. If I did, then maybe he and I could go to the diner and I could ask him about what I'd seen. I was sure that he'd laugh and explain everything, then I'd feel silly for doubting him, but reassured when he professed his love.

Walking into the office, I felt lost—nothing was familiar. I hadn't been there in so long, and there was a new girl working the front desk. She informed me Edward was in a meeting, so I offered to wait. After half an hour, I told her who I was, clearly surprising her with the fact that Mr. Cullen was married.

Quietly I walked down the hallway toward his office, a little startled when I heard sounds echoing in the corridor. Someone was having a little "Afternoon Delight" as Edward used to call it when I'd come visit. His door was closed, and I quietly twisted the handle. It easily opened, and I thought I'd poke my head in, see how much longer he'd be. I knew he would be surprised to see me, and I was excited.

What I saw was nothing like I expected, and as I watched them, my slowly healing heart shattered. There, only feet away, were Edward and the woman from the diner. She was bent over his desk as he slid his dick in and out of her. His hand twisted in her long, blonde hair, as he pulled her head back, causing her tits to project out. She called his name over and over again, crying out in pleasure, as his fingers dug into her hip. His eyes were closed and his brow furrowed—the way he used to be with me.

The sight of them made me physically ill, and I vomited all over the floor and a red coat that was laying there. Two sets of eyes turned toward me, both filled with horror. The woman looked shocked, embarrassed, and a little angry. Apparently, the coat belonged to her.

Edward was frozen, his mouth hanging open as his eyes bulged out. Not wanting him to see me cry, I turned and ran from the room.

"Who the fuck was that?" the girl said.

Edward's voice was soft and stricken with grief. "Bella."

Sometimes things go from good to bad in a blink of an eye. Rose left town, saying I'd betrayed her by letting her believe Bella was dead. It was true, after telling her I lost my kids and that my wife was gone, I never elaborated—never corrected myself. I accepted her pity and took advantage of her body. The truth was, some days—in my heart and soul—it felt like Bella was dead, like I'd lost her too.

Rose told me she was pregnant, but she wanted me to stay away from her. It hurt knowing that I was going to be a father and that I'd never get the chance to know my child. Part of me felt like I didn't deserve to be a dad again. Really, I was scared I'd just lose another child.

Bella wouldn't take my calls, and I knew she didn't trust me anymore after walking in on me and Rose. She just couldn't understand my relationship with Rose. I'd tried over and over again to explain that we didn't love each other, we were both just looking for comfort—that was it. I tried to convince Bella that I only loved her, and that when I said forever, I meant it.

I understood her reaction, because I'd have gone mad if I thought Bella was doing the same thing I'd been doing. It was shitty and selfish, but I still wanted Bella more than anything.

After Rose left, I put her out of my mind and focused all my attention on getting Bella back. I called her every night, and it wasn't long before she started accepting my calls. At first she wouldn't talk, she just listened to me beg. Renee soon suggested I take Bella to her counseling sessions and before long, I was sitting in with her. We talked a lot, discussing our past, the kid's accident, the grief and pain, even our hurt and resentment. I told them both about Rose, withholding the news of her pregnancy. I hadn't talked to Rose since she left and for all I knew, she hadn't even kept the baby.

I was so relieved to get everything out in the open, and it felt like things were headed in the right direction. We were moving forward in the smallest of ways, and I began to believe that maybe there was such a thing as second chances.

Jacob was six weeks old when I called Edward. We'd had no contact in months, and I knew he'd be surprised to see us. No matter how hurt I was over what had happened, I couldn't keep Edward from his son—not with knowing what I did about Claire and Paul. He was a good man, and I knew he loved his other children. I just hoped that Jacob wouldn't be a hurtful reminder of what he'd lost.

From the first time he came to my apartment, I could see that he intended to be a father to Jacob, and I was happy. His eyes lit up when he held the restless little boy, and I had to wipe a few tears away as I watched them stare at each other. I wondered if he'd had the same reaction to his other children, and if Jacob looked like they did. I'd seen pictures once, but it had been long ago, and I'd forgotten.

"Emmett and I are trying to work things out."

Edward looked up at me. "That's great, Rose. I'm happy for you."

"I just wanted you to know since he'll be spending time with Jacob. I didn't want to keep that from you."

"Bella and I are working on things, too. We're seeing a counselor, so I'm hoping we'll be okay."

He looked back down at Jacob, tracing his finger along Jake's tiny little cheek. "He looks so much like Claire. His hair and everything..." I watched him tear up, and moved to sit next to him.

"He's gonna need you, Edward. Emmett's a wonderful man, and he's good with Jacob, but he'll need his father. I want you to be there for him, if you can." Sliding my arm around his waist, I leaned my body against him. "Tell me if you ever can't handle it, okay? I don't want him to be a burden to you. I know he can't take the place of Claire and Paul, but maybe he can help ease the pain a little."

Edward nodded, smiling as Jacob yawned and fluttered his tired eyes. "I have to tell Bella."

"You didn't tell her?" I whispered, wondering how she would react.

"I couldn't. I didn't know if you'd ever come back and I didn't see any reason hurting her. But she's doing better. I'll tell her soon."

As Edward and I sat cuddling our son, I knew that things between us would be fine. We'd been friends since his first night in the bar, and I had faith that our son would only strengthen that bond between us.

We'd finished having dinner, and were both sitting silently at the table. It was Bella's birthday and I asked if I could cook for her like I used to.

I wanted so much to tell her about Jacob, but I was nervous. One of the things that had haunted Bella since the accident was the reality she couldn't have anymore children. I hoped that she would see Jacob as a blessing, a chance for us to experience the joys of parenthood again. I feared she would think it was a curse, hating me for having a baby with Rosalie. I had no idea what she would do.

Music played softly from the den, and I stood, walking to her chair and asking her to dance. My heart skipped a beat when she raised her hand to mine, the diamond in her wedding ring sparkling in the candle light. It meant so much that she was wearing it again.

"I'd love to," she whispered, tears filling her eyes. I knew it was still hard on her, being in our house with me again. We'd been talking about our feelings lately, and I felt like with every passing day, I was falling more in love with her, if it was possible.

Wrapping my arms around her waist, I pulled her close, and she melted into me, her lips seeking out the skin of my neck. We hadn't been intimate since before the accident, only hugging and holding hands a few times in the past months. I didn't want to push, as I was still trying to rebuild her trust. We'd come a long way, but we still had so far to go.

Her hands trailed up and over my shoulders and her fingers grazed the back of my neck. "Edward," she whispered.

"Bella." My breath faltered and then sped up. I wanted her so badly, but deep down I didn't think either of us was ready.

Her cheek, wet with tears, pressed against my chest. "I miss you so much. Please..." Her voice cracked, her grip tightening in my hair.

I wanted to help her in any way I could. "What do you need, baby? Just tell me."

She looked up at me and my heart broke and mended all in the same beat. She was so beautiful and sad, and I had a consuming need to try to fix her.

"Just make me feel something, Edward. I want to feel good again. Please...make me forget." The brown in her eyes was so deep and dark, I felt like I was getting lost in them.

Letting go of her waist, I brought my hands up to cup her face. I rubbed my thumbs across her cheeks, wiping away the tears and drying up the hurt. "I'll do anything you ask, Bella. I love you, you know that right?"

Her eyes danced back and forth as she looked at me. She tried to smile but more tears spilled from her eyes and rolled down her cheeks. "I love you, too, Edward, but it still hurts...so much."

Feeling the burn of misery in my eyes, I swallowed hard. "Let me make you feel good, baby."

Her lips fell open and she glanced down at my mouth. Her head began to shake back and forth slowly, and her breathing accelerated. "Please, Edward, kiss me."

She didn't have to ask twice. My lips met hers and the world disappeared—there was nothing left but us. Like a shock to the chest, my heart was revived when her lips touched mine. Her kiss started me living again.

I kissed her slowly, teasing her lips with my tongue. She whimpered and her hands grabbed my shirt, pulling on me and trying to get closer. Her mouth opened and she kissed me back with so much passion, my knees buckled.

We stumbled backward and her ass hit the edge of the table. We parted long enough to remove my shirt, then my mouth returned to her neck as my fingers worked the buttons on her shirt.

"Rip it, Edward," she moaned, and I pulled back to look at her—her head thrown back, and eyes squeezed shut. With both my hands I easily discarded the fabric, and her breasts spilled out over the top of her cotton bra. Memories flashed though my mind of her naked body, and I took my time grazing my fingers over her exposed flesh. Her nipples hardened and my mouth watered. I smoothed my opened hand along a familiar path—the curvature of her neck, the dip of her breast bone, the roundness of her tits.

I was a fool to think I could ever live without her.

She raised her head and looked at me, her eyes still wet and glossy. "Edward...love me."

I couldn't find the words to explain how much I did love her, with every piece of my soul. "Baby, I do love you, I swear. I never stopped loving you because I never stopped breathing."

Her eyes grew dark and lustful. "Fuck me, Edward." She reached for my belt and fumbled with the buckle. In excitement, I kicked off my pants as soon as they hit my knees, and her hands were everywhere. "Make me forget, Edward. Fuck me now."

She was probably leaving red scratches all over me, but I didn't care. She could mark me any way she wanted to. She could tattoo her name across my face—I was hers forever anyway.

I lifted Bella onto the edge of the table, tipping over our champagne flutes. I leaned around her, swiping the dishes to the floor. It felt both wrong and right, but I wanted her, more than anything. I knew we should stop, but once her hand wrapped around my cock, all rational thinking was gone.

She curled her other hand around the back of my neck, yanking my face down to hers. I kissed the fuck out of her, sucking her tongue and moaning into her opened mouth.

Lying back on the table, she pulled me down on top of her, and I felt her wet heat sliding against my dick. Things were happening too fast, but I couldn't stop it—I wanted her attention, I needed her body, and I was thriving off her touch.

Then it was as if a fog clouded my mind and I was taken back to fourteen years earlier when we'd just met. Somehow the weight on my heart lifted, grief slipped off my shoulders, and the love of my life was happy again.

Bella was begging me for a good fuck, and my deceiving mind didn't let me feel anything but lust and need. I stood up straight and roughly grabbed her waist, pulling her ass to the edge of the table. I pushed her panties to the side, aligned my cock to her heat, and pushed into her fast and hard.

"Yes!" she hissed.

I slowly pulled out and then with a swivel of my hips, I filled her again and again. With each moan, each chant of my name, and each thrust of her hips, I sped up my movements.

My mind was on repeat, only thinking one thing, "Bella, Bella, Bella."

I felt her pussy tensing around me, causing my balls to tighten as the pleasure escalated. Squeezing my eyes shut, I threw my head back and rubbed over her nipple with one hand, while pinching her clit with the other.

She screamed, jerking her pelvis as she came. I moved my hand off her clit and caressed her thigh before gently moving up her hip as I slowed my thrusts.

My thumb brushed against a raised section of skin on her stomach and my eyes shot open.

The fog that clouded my brain quickly dissipated and my world crashed, again. Flashes of our life hit me like a wrecking ball.

Her cesarean scar.

Our babies were gone.

Bella's depression.

My despair.

Rose and Jacob.

I had foolishly fucked Bella regardless of it all.

She deserved so much better from me. I looked up at her face, tears streaming down her temples, getting lost in her hair. She bit her bottom lip and tried to smile.

"Bella, I'm so sorry. I never meant-"

"No, Edward, no." She sat up, pulling me close. Her arms wrapped around me and something warm and wet tickled my shoulder. She was crying again. She spoke calm and warm, her breath hot against my ear. "I wanted this, Edward. I wanted you to love me like you used to."

Suddenly, it was all too much, and I couldn't hold it in any longer. So I let it go.

The sob coming from my lips was foreign and strange. My grip around her body tightened and my chest constricted and released as I cried harder than ever before.

Everything hit me in that second—the joy and sorrow, the loss and anger, the desperation and hope. It poured out of me as I held on to the most precious thing in my universe—my Bella.

The last few months had been better. I felt better, Edward and I were getting along better, my mother said I looked better. Better...that seemed to be my new goal in life—to be better. But better than what? Considering how bad things had been, pretty much anything was better than that. It wasn't much to aspire too, but it was still better.

Edward and I still attended counseling sessions, both together and alone. The therapists said we were making progress, and I was proud of that. I missed Claire and Paul every day, but I was starting to see a bigger picture. I hoped that maybe someday it wouldn't hurt as much, but most days when I thought about them it felt like I'd been punched in the gut. Edward usually made me feel a little bit better... Better.

We were dating, having only been intimate a few times since my birthday. My doctor thought I should get my feelings straight before jumping back into a physical relationship. Edward seemed concerned with that, but most of the time he was just busy. There was always a case he was working on, or a meeting to go to. He worked through lunches, dinners, and even weekends. I sometimes got the feeling he wasn't working, but there was no reason not to believe him. Not until the day I saw her at the grocery store.

I had stopped for some milk, and as I got in my car to leave, I saw her climb out of a bright red car only a few spaces down.


Edward told me she was gone, that she'd left town after I'd seen them together in his office. That had been over a year and half before, so I wondered what she was doing back. I decided not to dwell on it. Edward and I were in a good place, so I didn't think about it again. Until a week later when I saw the same red car in the parking lot of Edward's office. It had to have been a coincidence, but when I tried to call him, the phone just went to voicemail. He told me he had lunch meetings that day, but as I thought about it, images of Rosalie bent over his desk and Edward pounding into her filled my mind. Something was going on, and I had to find out what it was.

I was obsessed with discovering the truth. Every day I drove past Edward's office at lunch, and several times the car was there. One evening when he had a dinner meeting, I drove past his house, and the car was there. There was a weekend when he had depositions all day, but his car was home, and so was the red one. I pretended I was fine when I saw or spoke to Edward, but it was getting harder with each sighting. I even followed it from his house one day, which gave me a new place to drive by. On my second trip past the apartment building, I almost lost it when I saw Edward's car pulling into a parking space. Pulling over, I watched as he got out, smiling and carrying a gift bag. Rosalie opened the apartment door, wrapping her arms around him and kissing his cheek as he entered. He lied to me.

I rushed home in a panic, throwing out all the medications I'd been taking. There was no sense getting better if the son of a bitch was just going back to his slut. I called his cell phone, and was surprised when he actually answered.

"Bella? Hey, what are you doing?" he said, as I heard a door click shut in the background.

"I just wondered if you're free tonight, if you wanna get some dinner or something." I had a feeling he'd pass up my offer, claiming to have another meeting.

"Sure, I'd love to. Listen, I'm with a client right now, but how about seven or so? I'll come get you from your mom's."

His response caught me off guard and I stuttered through my reply, telling him that it sounded great and I couldn't wait. "I love you, Bella," the asshole had the nerve to say, as he stood in her house, probably in between fucking sessions. I was so angry, who did he think I was? Did he honestly think I wouldn't smell or taste her on him?

I waited until he showed up, and then plastered a smile on my face.

"Do you mind if we stop by the house for just a minute? I need to change," he said.

I nodded in response. Maybe her perfume was on his shirt, or her lipstick on his pants. Whatever it was, I was quiet and let him hold my hand on the way there. When we pulled up, memories assaulted me. The kids playing in the yard, Paul riding his tricycle in the driveway, and Claire lining up her dolls on the front porch swing. There were so many moments, I couldn't speak as Edward led me inside the house.

"I'll be right back," he said, before he hurried down the hall. I looked around the living room, where not much had changed. I was glad to see our family pictures on the walls and tables. The toys in the corner hurt for a moment, and then relaxed me a bit. A new frame on the mantel held the picture of a baby. The little boy looked so much like my Claire, it almost took my breath away. I wondered who he was and why Edward had a picture of him.

"Hey, I need to get you a new key. I had to get the locks changed a while back, the front door handle broke," Edward said, and I watched him walk into the kitchen, returning with a key. "Put this on your ring so you can get in anytime you want."

Dinner was nice, as was the movie we saw. By the end of the night, I was done pretending and when Edward asked me to go home with him, saying he had some things to talk to me about, I declined. No way, I thought. I'm not some cheap whore like your other girl. Just because we're still legally married doesn't mean I'll put out just 'cause you ask. He was understanding, dropping me off with a kiss on the cheek, and staying only long enough to make sure I got in safely and to say hello to my mother.

The next day, he called bright and early, asking if I could meet him for a late lunch. I agreed, glad that the late time gave me a chance to see what Rosalie was up to.

I waited until Rose left her apartment, and then followed her. She never even saw me, and luckily the tailing didn't last long. She pulled into a park, and I turned into the next parking section a few hundred feet down the road. I was surprised when she got out, my heart stuttering when she opened the back door and took a baby out of a car seat. She walked across the grass toward the playground, waving to someone in the distance. As she got closer to where I was parked, I could see the baby more clearly. He was dressed in a little blue outfit with a brown baseball hat. Tears pricked my eyes when I realized it was Edward she was walking toward. He stood from a bench and jogged to her, reaching out and hugging her as the baby reached, in turn, for Edward.

I remained horror stricken as he took the baby in his arms, lifting him up and smiling. I'd only ever seen him smile like that for two other people. The baby's hat fell off, and a sobbing gasp left my throat. His hair was red, like Edward's. The baby smiled and I realized he was the baby in the picture. My eyes grew wider as I watched them, hearing Rosalie's voice as she laughed and talked to the baby.

"Are you excited to see Daddy, Jacob? Yeah, you are, aren't you?"

Daddy? I couldn't look away from the scene before me. As I watched Edward with his new son, it dawned on me why he'd been with Rosalie. Obviously, she could give him children, and I couldn't. He'd wanted so much to be a father, and since I couldn't make that dream come true for him again, he found someone else who could.

Edward had finally started helping me heal, he was all I'd been living for, and now he was gone. He didn't need me anymore. There were so many more things that Rosalie could give him, and I'd never measure up. I watched him kiss the baby and I knew that was it. He was happy with a new family, and I was just in the way.

I left, with only one destination in mind. It was good timing that he'd given me a new key to the house, and as I walked around inside, remembering how my life had once been perfect, I had a thought—an idea.

Opening the medicine cabinet, I found my old prescriptions for sleeping pills. I'd been through so many different medications, always having to find a new one when the previous one quit working. I grabbed three of the bottles and emptied their contents into my hand, counting at least forty pills. I filled the cup next to the sink with water and began to swallow the pills four or five at a time, until they were all gone.

Going back to the bedroom, I saw the shadowbox that contained the receipt Edward had used to propose to me. After breaking the glass and taking it out, I pulled out a picture of the kids, too, and lay on the bed with them, crying and missing my children. There was a pen on the nightstand, and I picked it up, turning the receipt over to the side that showed the faded purchases.

I miss them, I wrote. I just want my babies back.

Pulling out my phone, I texted Edward, asking him to meet me at the house for lunch, then dropped the phone on the bed next to the picture and receipt.

Soon I'd be better.

"Rose, do you have plans this afternoon?" I asked, kissing Jacob's cheek.

She shook her head. "No, not until tonight. Emmett's coming over. Why?"

"I'm going to meet Bella for lunch and I want you and Jacob to come with me." My stomach tumbled and I wasn't sure why this was so hard. Rosalie was a great friend, Jacob my beautiful son, Bella my treasured wife, and I just wanted us all to finally be a family.

"Really, Edward? You're going to tell her?" Rose reached as Jacob squealed, practically jumping out of my arms to her.

"Yeah, just give me about twenty minutes to talk to her and then meet me at my house. She just sent a text saying she'd be there." Taking a deep breath, I knew this wouldn't be easy.

"Relax Edward, everything's going to be fine." I nodded as we walked over to the swings.

The next hour flew by and before I knew it, I was already late. Fumbling and nervous I kissed them both goodbye and ran to my car, yelling for Rosalie to meet me in a few minutes.

My hands were shaking when I tried to stick my key in the switch. Shit! Calm down Edward, it's just Bella. I took a minute to collect myself, then started my car and drove away.

The front door was unlocked when I got there. "Bella?" I didn't see her in the kitchen or the living room, and I twisted my neck to look up the stairs to see if she was there. "Bella? Baby, I'm home."

I stood still and quiet waiting for her to answer. I didn't hear anything but a weird noise coming from outside, like someone was mowing their lawn. I took the steps one at a time. "Hey, you up here?"

Our bedroom door was open and I smiled thinking she was in there waiting for me. As soon as I entered, uneasiness washed over me. "What the…"

The covers on the bed were wrinkled and splattered with drops of blood. In two strides I was standing over the bed looking at the clutter of objects that were there. The glass on the shadowbox was broken, the picture of Paul and Claire crumbled and covered in blood, as was the note I'd proposed with. I quickly picked it up and turned it over, reading Bella's messy handwriting.

Fuck! What did she do?

Panic seared though me. Our therapist had warned me that people in Bella's depressed state were prone to suicide attempts.


Looking around the room, I couldn't focus on anything. Then I saw the picture of Jacob from the living room mantle lying on the floor, and my blood ran cold. She knew.

"BELLA?" I ran over and looked out the bedroom window. Nothing.

I ran into our bathroom. I noticed the medicine cabinet door was open, and pill bottles were haphazardly scattered. I picked one up that was empty, then threw it down and picked up another. One lone pill tumbled out.


"BELLA!" I turned to leave and slipped on the tile floor. Scrambling back up, I left the bathroom.

Please no! Please no!

I ran as fast as I could through each room yelling her name. She never answered. Every room was empty.


I stumbled back down the stairs and froze when I entered the kitchen.

That rumble!


Flinging open the back door, I ran across the yard to the detached garage and the roar grew louder. My heartbeat thrummed though my ears as fear prickled my skin. My whole body shook as I went to open the door.

She wouldn't do this me. She loves me. We're meant to be together forever. I love her...

I pulled up to Edward's house and saw him running across through the yard toward the garage. What in the world?

Turning around, I saw Jacob sleeping soundly in his car seat. I didn't want to wake him until Edward was ready for us, so I left the radio on and the air running, gently closing the door.

As soon as I was out of the car, I heard Edward yelling. I ran to the garage, but when I saw him, I instinctively covered my mouth and my knees buckled.

He was pulling Bella from an old red truck. Her skin was so pale, and her body limp...and lifeless. Her shirt was covered with something wet, vomit maybe? There was drool dripping off her chin and her mouth fell open as he tugged on her.

He was crying and screaming. I couldn't understand most of what he said, but what I could, I knew I'd never forget. "No, no, no!.. Bella... No!... 911, Rose!... Please! Don't leave me baby..."

I fumbled, pulling my cell out of my pocket. I told the operator Edward's address, but couldn't explain what was wrong—my mind couldn't comprehend that Bella might be dead.

But I knew.

He fell to the concrete floor with her in his arms, rocking her and crying into her hair. I couldn't move to help him. I watched as he pressed his ear to her chest, and then wailed so loudly. He shook her hard, begging her to come back.

The ambulance soon pulled up and the EMT's rushed past me, hovering over Edward and Bella.

His cries drowned out the sirens, filling the air around us with pain and suffering.

"You have to let go of her, sir!"


Everything happened in a blur, and I staggered back to the car, leaning against it.

Edward climbed into the ambulance with Bella, not even glancing my direction. There was a flurry of activity around me, yet I stood motionless.

This wasn't real was it?

"Are you okay, hun?" Edward's elderly neighbor asked.

I looked right through her.

"Excuse me, Miss, can you answer a few questions?" The police officer stopped in front of me. "Got it," he spoke into the walkie-talkie attached to his shoulder.

"What happened?" the neighbor lady said.

The cop shook his head. "Carbon monoxide poisoning. Her husband found her in the garage. She'd plugged the muffler with old rags, had the heater wide open..."

"Oh my…"

"There were no signs of life. It doesn't look good..." He began speaking into his shoulder again.

He continued to talk, but I no longer heard him. Bella was gone. What would this do to Edward? To me? To us? To Jacob?

Maybe today, we had lost him, too.

I wondered, maybe true love like Edward and Bella's, no matter the circumstances, never exhausts, not even in death. Maybe it just evaporates into the air, swirling with the dust, and floating away on the wings of time…


I believe that if I should die,
and you were to walk near my grave,
from the very depths of the earth
I would hear your footsteps

Benito Perez Galdos