A/N: More to follow at the end, but for now...

Thanks to WitchyVampireGirl for talking me off the ledge numerous times and lending me your ear over lunch and on Facebook. I think I had about four mini meltdowns while writing this chapter, and they probably would have turned into volcanic sized eruptions if you weren't there to assist.

Thanks to the girls in my Facebook group for laughter, support, and the chapter discussions. I look forward to them every time I update. :)

Thanks to everyone who is still here. I know my updates don't come as frequently as you or I would like at times, but I appreciate your patience and I want to say thank you for sticking around and coming back.

Thanks to EvilNat for the pimpage and reccing this.

I'm damned if I do and damned if I don't here, so for now I'll sit back and let everyone (hopefully) enjoy... :)

Chapter Song: Hemorrhage (In My Hands) by Fuel

Characters belong to SM, recognizable faces and places belong to the rightful owners, and I take responsibility for the rest.

Chapter 29 – Room to Breathe

Edward's POV

I was on my way into the office when I got Jasper's call. He didn't waste any time getting straight to the point.

"The girls know."

"The girls know what?" I had no idea what he was talking about.

"About the bet," he sighed.

I flicked my wrist in the air, signaling Sam to turn down the music. "What do you mean 'the girls know'?"

He paused before answering. "Rosalie overheard Emmett and I talking about it at the White party."

"What exactly did she overhear you say?"

"She heard Emmett telling me that I didn't even need to make a bet with you to get Bella to fall in love."

"Why were you discussing the bet in the first place?"

"Because the two of you looked so happy," Jasper explained.

"Our looking happy inspired you to discuss that topic?"

"We were both … surprised by how well this whole thing worked out for you. And neither of us knew Rose was standing behind us."

I pinched the bridge of my nose and leaned my head against the seat. The air felt like it was a million degrees, but a cold sweat still spread across every inch of my body. I reached down and loosened my tie, popped open the top button on my Oxford, and ran my fingers through my hair.


"How did Alice find out?"

"Rose called her first thing Saturday morning and had us come over. She backed us into a corner and interrogated us in front of Alice."

"Jesus," I muttered, balling my fist in anger. "Do you think they told Bella?" The silence that followed served as enough of an answer, but I needed to hear the words come from my best friend's mouth. "C'mon, Jasper, answer the damn question. Do you think they told Bella?"

"They were going to tell her when she got back from the Hamptons."

I banged my fist against the car window, wincing in pain when my knuckles collided with the hard glass. As much as I wanted to chew Jasper out, I also wanted to know everything that he knew leading up to this point. "Have they talked to her yet?"

"I don't know, man." Jasper sounded defeated. "I tried to ask Alice about it last night and she refused to touch on the topic. And Rose hasn't spoke to Emmett since last weekend."

"This is so fucking stupid." I slumped back against the seat once more. "Nobody but the three of us ever needed to know about this. I mean we called the fucking thing off months ago!"

"I'm sorry-"

"I know you're sorry," I said, thumping my fist against the window once more. "Unfortunately sorry isn't going to do shit to fix anything that's broken because of this. I've spent months proving myself to so many people - Bella, Rose, Charlie and Renee. None of that will matter when word of this gets out."

"Maybe they didn't talk to her yet?"

"Please, Jasper. I'm sure Rose was just waiting for me to fuck up so she could wave her I-told-you-so flag all over town. She's always thought I was an asshole. This little piece of information only goes to prove her right!"

Jasper sighed. "I know Rose hasn't thought highly of you, but you said it yourself – you've changed. So many people noticed it, Edward, and I'm almost positive she's one of them. I would expect a lot more arguments between her and Bella if she didn't."

"Well it really won't matter much now, will it? I'm just the asshole who had a bet that entailed fucking with her best friend's emotions." Sam brought the car to a stop in front of my office. "I have to go. I just got to work."

"Are you going to call Bella?"

"I don't know," I answered honestly. "I'm going to her place for the weekend, so I'll see her tonight either way."

"For what it's worth, I really am sorry. I never would have said anything had we not been sitting on the hot seat in the middle of Rose's living room. Emmett and I are in deep too, if it makes you feel any better."

I scoffed. "What would make me feel better would be you going back to your hot seat and erasing everything you said."

"I wish I could do that."

"Thanks for giving me a heads up anyway." I eased the door open and climbed out of the car.

"Let me know what happens when the two of you talk."

"Will do. I'll talk to you later." I hung up before Jasper had a chance to say goodbye.

"Edward?" I whipped around to find Sam holding my briefcase out to me. "You forgot this."

"Thanks," I mumbled, grabbing it and jogging up the sidewalk. As soon as I got to my office, I closed the door and dropped down on my chair. I resisted the urge to shout and throw something, and opted to rest my head on my desk instead.

I wanted to call Bella and dive right into what I knew would be a difficult conversation. The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized what a bad idea it was. I owed Bella an explanation and I knew she would have questions for me. Having that conversation over the phone was a pussy thing for me to do, and it wasn't fair for her. She deserved so much more than that, and I wanted her to be able to see the conviction on my face when I told her how much I loved her and how right everything felt. Bet or no bet I had fallen very hard for this woman, and I panned on keeping her in my life for as long as she would let me.

Texting Bella wasn't out of the picture, however. I had no intention of bringing anything up, but I at least wanted to make sure I was still welcome at her place for the weekend. I grabbed my phone and typed out a short message.

I can't wait for our weekend to begin. I'll be over around 7. – E.

A half hour later I still hadn't heard back, so I sent another message.

Should I pick up dinner on my way over? – E.

When another half hour passed with no response, I gave up and pulled out my work. The spreadsheet of company codes and numbers that usually served as a welcome distraction did nothing to quell the nervousness that weighed down my stomach.

Bella always got back to me in a relatively quick fashion. The only time it took longer was when she was knee-deep in a project, and I knew that she didn't have anything like that on her agenda today.

She knows, a small voice inside my head sang out. She knows and she's pissed off and she'll probably have all her shit unpacked and yours sitting on the front steps when you get over there tonight.

I dropped my pen and fisted my hair in frustration.

Everything was about to get insanely fucked up.

I just hoped that nothing turned out broken beyond repair.

Rose's POV


"Don't hang up, please," Emmett spat out.

"Give me one good reason not to."

"You love me."

"I may love you Emmett, but I really don't like you right now. Nor do I feel like talking." I hung up the phone and turned the volume off before he could say another word.

"I hope that's just your over-the-top pregnancy hormones talking." I jumped at the sound of Mike's voice.

"Christ Newton, you scared the shit out of me!"

"I'm glad to know I still have the ability to startle people." He strolled along the wall of my office, running his fingers over the racks of fall pieces my assistant had just brought in. "The sight of long sleeves before we've even had a chance to break out the short ones depresses me. Why can't your industry run congruently with the actual seasons?"

"Fashion is about being one step ahead of the game," I said, taking a seat behind my desk and slipping my shoes off. No matter what I wore, my feet always ached these days. I massaged the ball of my right foot with the toes of my left and leaned my head back on my chair. "To what do I owe this mid-day visit?"

"We can get to that in a minute," Mike replied, clapping his hands together loudly in an effort to get my attention. I squinted my eyes open and sighed, sitting straight in my chair and focusing on him.


"What's going on with you and Emmett?"

"I can't speak for Emmett since I haven't really seen or talked to him since Sunday, but I'm busy trying to assemble-"

"Nah-ah," Mike said, rolling his eyes and shaking his finger "no" in front of me. "That was a very cute attempt at deflection you made there, but it's not going to work. What is going on with you and Emmett's relationship?"

"I'm not speaking to him."

"I can see that. Why?"

"Because he, Jasper, and Edward did a really shitty thing to Bella and I refuse to let him off the hook that easily."

Mike narrowed his eyebrows. "What did they do to Bella?"

I didn't want to revisit the topic. Every time I thought about it I got upset. Unfortunately I knew Mike wouldn't stop pressing until I did. "Edward made a bet with Jasper that he could get Bella to fall in love with him. That's why he came to Bella for PR and why he initially tried hooking up with her."

"What kind of bet?"

"If Bella fell for him then Edward got Jasper's new Hamptons house. If she didn't, Jasper got Edward's new BMW."

Mike laughed. "A car and a house, huh? Could they get any more unoriginal?"

"Unoriginal? Really Mike?"

"What?" He shrugged and smirked. "Even you have to admit they could have done better. I mean Jasper has to have some dirt on Edward. He could have leaked some of his juicy secrets. But, I digress; when and how did you find this out?"

"Emmett let it slip at the White party. I made him and Jasper tell Ali and I everything on Sunday."

"Well, that explains why you spent the majority of that night walking around like you had a stick stuck up your ass. What did they tell you?"

I relayed everything to Mike, beginning with our night at the Guggenheim and ending with Sunday's early morning chat. When I met his eyes at the end of my story, I was surprised to find amusement in them.

"How are you not fuming right now? I just told you that our best friend's relationship is founded on a huge lie."

Mike chuckled and leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and propping his chin up in his hands. "Before you go all batshit preggo crazy on me, please hear me out. I know and I understand why you're upset. You've always treated your friends like they're family, Rosalie, especially when it comes to the girls. I know secret-keeping is something you frown on, especially after everything that happened with Jacob, and I know you've always had a bad feeling about Edward's intentions."

"Then you know-"

"BUT," Mike interrupted," I also know that you've seen Edward's transformation with your own eyes. They may have made that bet, but when shit started to get real, they squashed it. To me, that says that what may have started out as a game grew into much more. That is where you should focus your attention."

"You're kidding, right?" It sounded like Mike was speaking a foreign language. "I find all this shit out by accident – accident, Mike, because neither of them had any intention of telling us – and you expect me to just forget it and focus on the fact that they only let it go on for a month?"

"I'm not expecting you to forget anything, sweetheart. I'm asking you to have an open-mind. Do you really think Edward would have spent so much time continuing to pursue Bella after the bet was called off if he didn't have feelings for her? The guy could pretty much walk into a room and pick out ten women who would go home with him with no questions asked."

"Which is probably what he spent all last fall doing when Bella wasn't around!"

"Even if he was, that's Bella's battle to fight, not yours." Mike stood and came around the desk, spinning my chair around until I faced him and then kneeling in front of me. "Emmett is a good guy, Rose. If there was ever a risk of Bella getting hurt because of that bet he would have come forward and told you. Hell, according to what you just told me he gave Edward and Jasper both a timeline to end it or he would tell you. He obviously didn't support their stupidity and he didn't want to be an accomplice in all of it.

"I'm not saying you shouldn't or can't feel upset over this. It pisses me off too, but not enough to make me want to sever relationships with anybody involved. I trust Jasper and Emmett enough to know that them holding on to this secret was the best course of action in their eyes. After all, was anything going to hell last week before you knew about this?"

I shook my head and opened my mouth to speak, but Mike held up a single finger to silence me. "Everything was fine last week. Everything was normal last week. Had you not insisted on grilling the two of them after they told you it wasn't important, everything would still be fine and normal. You and Emmett would have enjoyed a nice phone conversation a few minutes ago, Alice wouldn't be confused as to what to believe or not believe when it comes to Jasper, and poor Bella wouldn't be sitting at home in her apartment mindfucking a situation that belongs in the past.

"I know that you have good intentions and I know you're just trying to be there for your friend, but I think it's time to let go of the apron strings and let Bella make her own decision about the future of her relationship. Some stories aren't ours to share, Rose, and I think in this case you probably should have let Jasper and Emmett handle things on their own."

I blew out a long breath, releasing all of the anger and sass I'd built up inside. Tears clouded my vision and I bit my lip. Fucking hormones. "Why would they do that to Bella? She deserves to be the center of someone's world, Mike, not a yo-yo they tug around for entertainment."

He shrugged again. "They were drunk. People do stupid shit when they're drunk. You of all people should know this." I reached out to smack the back of his head, but he dodged and laughed. "You've seen how Edward is with her. She's not his yo-yo, Rosie; she's his partner. The milk to his cookie, you know?"

I couldn't help but crack a smile. "My drunken stupidity ended in my mid-twenties, thank you."

"Sometimes it takes those of us with dangling participles between our legs a bit longer to get to that same point." He reached out and rested his palm on my belly. "All that stress you're carrying around with you isn't good for the little one in here. You need to relax and let some of this stuff go, hun."

Oh hell. There's no time like the present. "Little boy," I whispered.


"Little boy," I repeated. "I'm having a baby boy."

Mike's eyes lit up. "What? When did you find this out?"


"Does Emmett know?"

I nodded. "He was there."

"For fucks sakes, Smith, what did he say?"

"He seemed excited," I said, smiling a bit wider at the memory.

"What do you mean 'he seemed excited'?" Mike asked, widening his eyes. "Please don't tell me you gave him the silent treatment during your sonogram?"

I hung my head in embarrassment. "Not complete silence, but close to it."

Mike grabbed my phone off my desk and held it out to me. "Don't look at me that way. You call that man and invite him over for dinner after work. You missed out on sharing a very special moment because you insist on acting stubborn and childish."

I took the phone and punched in Emmett's number. He answered on the second ring. "Rose?"

"I'm sorry," I blurted out, not bothering to hold back the tears that streamed down my face. "Will you come over tonight?"

"Of course I will. Are you crying?"

"Yes," I sniffled, glancing over at Mike. He laughed and made a face at me, and I held my middle finger up in response.

"Should I come to your office now? I can be there in fifteen minutes."

"No, no, don't do that. Mike is here, so I'll be okay."

"Are you sure? I don't have anything going on right-"

"It's okay, Em. Really."

He sighed on the other end of the line. "I'm happy you called."

I cracked a small smile. "I'll see you tonight."

"I'll be there."

Mike started slow clapping as soon as I hung up the phone. "Very good, Smith. This might be the first step toward a new you."

"Ha. Don't get your hopes up so fast. I'm still pissed."

"And, like I said, being pissed off is perfectly fine. Just don't let it consume you to the point where you end up losing the man who, in my humble opinion, is the best you've ever had."

"I don't want to talk about anything related to me anymore," I said honestly. "So, you must have had a reason for coming over here?"

Mike shrugged. "Not really. I was in the neighborhood and wanted to say 'hi'. Of course I was beginning to wonder if something drastic had happened after not hearing from any of my ladies for almost a week."

"It's only been five days. We've gone way longer than that without talking."

"Yes, but that was before all of you had beautiful men in your lives and were getting laid on a regular basis. Things around here get much more interesting when there's dick to discuss." Mike laughed and ducked to the left as I reached out to slap his shoulder.

"Dick complicates everything, as you can see."

A devilish twinkle lit up his eyes. "There's a simple solution to that problem."

"Do I even want to ask?"

"Less talking, more fucking."

I rolled my eyes. "Leave it to you to come up with something like that."

"Come have lunch with me. I guarantee laughs for at least an hour."

I glanced at my clock and then over at the racks of clothes that lined the wall. I had plenty of things to keep me busy, but my mind hadn't been on work all morning, and I knew it wouldn't be now that Emmett was coming over either.

"Okay, but you're buying."

"I've never objected to spending my money on gorgeous ladies."

I stood and grabbed my purse before looping my arm through Mike's. "Thanks for making me smile."

"No problem. Now let's hope I have the same effect on Swan when I go visit her."

The image of Bella's face from the night before flashed through my mind. My stomach churned at the realization that I was partially, if not mostly, responsible for the fact that my friend was likely across town in the throes of an emotional breakdown.

Mike had a relatively easy time getting me to smile.

I could only hope he would have half as much success when he got around to visiting Bella.

Edward's POV

I hoisted my duffle bag up on my shoulder and dug my keys out of my pocket. With the bouquet of flowers I'd purchased Bella in hand, I took a deep breath and gingerly slid my key into the lock. The hall lights were off and the apartment was quiet with I entered.

"Bell?" I kicked my shoes off and dropped my bag on the floor. Bella hadn't texted or called all day, so I had no idea whether or not she was even home. I walked slowly to the living room, and the sight before me broke my heart.

Bella sat on the floor in front of the couch with her legs pulled snug against her chest and her forehead resting against her knees. She had her pajamas on and her hair was pulled back in a messy ponytail. A half-packed box sat on the floor next to her and about fifteen different framed photographs were spread out on the carpet.

"Um," I mumbled, clearing my throat and picking at the plastic wrap on the bouquet. When she didn't respond, I set the bouquet down and crossed the room. I sank down next to her and folded my legs beneath me. "I'm guessing you heard?"

It took a minute for her to answer. "Why, Edward?" she asked, finally looking up at me. Red, puffy eyes and blotchy cheeks greeted me, constricting my heart even more. I reached out to put my arm around her, but she leaned away from me and shook her head.

I sighed. "I wish I had a good reason to give you, but truthfully I don't."

"I just don't understand." She rested her chin against her knees and fixed her eyes on one of the few paintings still on the wall. "I know you've been through a lot, I know you have issues, and I know your track record is pretty much shit. But I can't for the life of me figure out why you would ever do anything with the intention of hurting someone?"

"I was a dick back then." I looked up at the ceiling and fisted my hair in my hands. "I didn't know what kind of person you were, I didn't know what you had to offer, and I sure as hell never expected us to get to where we are today. It was a selfish thing to do and I'm sorry I ever did it, Bella."

"Who else knows?"

"What do you mean?"

"Who else knows about the bet, Edward? Carlisle? Esme? Your colleagues? Embry? How many people are aware of the fact that you planned on humiliating me?"

"Bella, I swear, Jasper and Emmett are the only two who know. Well, and Sam, but that's only because he overheard me talking to Jasper in the car this morning."

"God, I feel like such a fucking idiot." She stood abruptly and started pacing the floor. "I really thought Esme recommended our firm. I thought that you showing up at my office was the result of wanting to make your book release something amazing. The time you kissed me in the back of the Lincoln and the night you came home with me after Emmett's show opened … I thought all of those things actually meant something. And now I find out that they were just carefully placed stepping stones on this manipulative path you carved out."


"I mean, why did you have to target me? There are thousands of single women in this city, and there were probably at least a hundred at the party that night. I'm not at the top of the social ladder and I'm not part of the cream of the crop of gorgeous beauties prowling around looking for a guy like you. What the hell inspired you to drag me into your childish game?"

"Not a part of the cream of the crop? You set the standard for that group of ladies, Bella. You're just too modest to know how truly beautiful you are."

"Damnit Edward, don't try to divert my attention! Your flattery will get you nowhere with me right now. I want answers, and this conversation isn't over until you give them to me!"

I fumbled awkwardly with the drawstring on my hooded sweatshirt. Throughout the course of my twenties I'd given plenty of women reason to grill me just like Bella was. It always shocked me when they chalked my behavior up to who I was and moved on so easily. Having to endure the round of twenty questions was horribly uncomfortable, especially since Bella wasn't just any woman. The love I felt for her only served to fuel my humiliation.

"If you're not willing to discuss this then you might as well go."

"You dumped your phone on me," I said nervously, the words coming out all wrong. Bella furrowed her brows in confusion. "I mean you dumped your drink on my phone; and you slapped me. Insult to injury, you know?" She opened her mouth to say something, but I continued. "No woman has ever done that before, and truth be told, it was pretty fucking sexy. But it was frustrating too. It bruised my ego, which was the size of Yankee Stadium back then.

"Jasper saw the whole thing go down from across the room, and of course he thought it was hilarious. I knew my womanizing nauseated him, even though he never directly said it, and seeing me get taken down a notch was like a breath of fresh air I'm sure. I was already frustrated by the wet suit and the jacked up phone, but knowing I'd managed to ruin what little chance I may have had with you only frustrated me more. Jasper noticed and that's when we made the bet."

She stopped pacing and stood in front of me, hands on her hips and cheeks flushed in anger. "Ruining what little chance you may have had with me? Chance for what Edward? A wild romp in the sheets followed by tossing me out in the middle of the night? In after dark and out before dawn, right? Or were you planning on coming back to my place and sneaking out after you got what you wanted?"

I swallowed back the bile that had risen to my throat and looked up at her. When I first laid eyes on her, I had no intention of pursuing a relationship. Hell, I had no idea of pursuing a relationship with anyone at that point in time. It was only after I got to know how amazing Bella was that I realized I wanted to be with her.

I didn't want to admit to any of this, but I knew I had to. The start of everything we were now was already laced with dishonesty, and I didn't want to be that guy anymore. "Truthfully? I would have brought you back to my place after dark and told you I had an early morning obligation that warranted your leaving before dawn. I would have devoured your body and found some excuse not to give you my number after the fact. I might have agreed to meet you again, but I would have concocted some excuse not to before it was too late. I was an asshole, Bella. A miserable, narcissistic, manwhoring asshole. I'm not proud of how I acted, nor am I proud of the fact that I ever agreed to the bet in the first place. But it already happened and I can't rewind the clock and go back and change it now.

"What I can do is promise you that part of me is gone – permanently. I can tell you that you I'm so in love with you that I can't think straight most of the time. And I can assure you, wholeheartedly, that I'm with you today because I want to be, not because I have any material goods to gain from it. I would never, ever dream of hurting you, Bella, and I'm so incredibly sorry that I even contemplated doing so back then."

I watched as a dozen emotions crossed Bella's face. Her anger had subsided and now she looked defeated. She sank to the floor next to me and tipped her head back against the couch, letting out a loud sigh. "I don't know what to do, Edward."

"What do you mean 'you don't know what to do'? You're not thinking about breaking up with me are you?"

"I'd be lying if I said the thought hadn't crossed my mind."

I looked over at her. "I think that's a bit drastic, don't you?"

"How am I supposed to trust you after this, Edward? You lied about something huge; who's to say you won't lie again? Or that you haven't already?"

"Bella…" My voice trailed off and I ran my fingers through my hair. "If I didn't love you, would I be sitting here right now having this conversation? You told me that you loved me months ago, and we've been back in the city long enough for me to make the great escape. If I didn't want to be in this relationship I wouldn't be."

"I know you love me," she admitted. "But you have to understand, in a few weeks I'll be giving up everything I've known up to this point to forge ahead into a new life with you. Up until yesterday I'd managed to quell my fears on that issue, but now they're skipping right back to the forefront of things."

As much as I understood why she felt the way she did, I couldn't help but feel frustrated by how she was letting the bet overshadow all the positive aspects of our relationship. "What does the bet have to do with us living together?"

"I relinquished my apartment so I could move in with you, Edward. What happens if we're living together for a few months and another secret rears its big ugly head?"

"There are no other secrets," I insisted. "I answered all of your questions, and I answered them honestly. I made a mistake, Bella. Plain and simple. I'm only human for Christ's sakes. What more do I need to say?"

She looked down at the carpet and then up at me. "I'm only human too, Edward. If you get to live with your faults then I get to live with my insecurities about this. Plain and simple." Sarcasm dripped from every word.

"I didn't mean it like that-"

"I think you should go now."

Her words stung. "But it's my weekend to stay here."

"I know." She stood and crossed her arms over her chest protectively. I stood as well.

"You're really asking me to leave?"

She nodded. "I need time to mull all of this over. Contrary to what you seem to think, this is a big deal and it's not something I'm willing to take lightly. I've heard you out, you answered my questions, and now I want some time to process all of this – on my own."

"I never said it wasn't a big deal."

"You didn't have to say it. The fact that you never planned on telling me makes it glaringly obvious."

I sighed. "Bella, I'm sorry-"

"I know you're sorry, Edward. What I don't know is if sorry is enough."

I ran my fingers through my hair before stuffing my hands in my pockets. I rocked back on my heels and met her stare. "How long do you need?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. Give me the weekend to start?"

"Fine." I started to head for the door, but turned when I reached the hallway. "Just so you know, I don't like this. This is how break ups always start. Someone needs time and space to think, and before you know it everything falls apart."

Bella stared at me for a few seconds before closing the space between us and wrapping her arms around me. I squeezed her small form against me and she buried her face in my shoulder. I pressed my lips against the top of her head and inhaled the familiar, fruity scent of her shampoo. My stomach did a somersault when I thought about how this might be the last time she'd let me get this close.

"If I wanted to break up with you I would do it right now," she whispered.

I leaned away from her and looked down, cupping her face between my hands. "Please remember that this weekend."

She nodded. "I will."

I leaned forward and gave her one final kiss on the forehead before turning and grabbing my duffle bag from its place on the floor. When I looked back at her, the final intact piece of my heart cracked. "I love you, Bella."

"Me too," she mumbled, brushing the newest batch of tears off of her cheeks. "I'll call you on Monday."

I let myself out reluctantly, closing the door softly behind me.

My stomach felt like it was tied in knots and my chest felt like someone had punched a gaping hole in it. Bella only wanted a weekend to think, but I felt like she'd just told me she was taking a year long sabbatical in China.

In the grand scheme of things, two days wasn't much time. In this situation, however, two days could alter both of our lives in a way that I didn't think would be positive for either of us.

As much as I wanted to believe that Bella wasn't going to leave me, a large part of me worried that she would. And, truth be told, I really couldn't blame her if she did. Everything was in the past, just like I'd stated, but that did nothing to change the fact that Jasper and I did it.

It took everything in me to resist the urge to run back down the hall, rush into Bella's apartment, and beg her for forgiveness. When the elevator doors finally opened, I stepped inside and hit the button for the lobby. She needed time to think, and I needed to have respect and let her do that.

I had no idea where this weekend would leave us.

I had no guarantees that Bella would want to stay with me or that our relationship would carry on where it left off if she did.

I had no way of knowing if any of our friends would feed her anymore information over the course of the weekend.

What I did have was my heart, and in that moment it was filled with a nasty combination of pain and guilt.

I knew the future of our relationship rested just as much on my shoulders as it did hers, even though it didn't feel that way in the moment.

With a big sigh, I reluctantly began the long walk to my apartment. Even though I'd be spending the weekend alone, I knew what I needed to do.

I vowed then and there to be the best man I could be for Bella. I vowed to show her how much I loved her, to prove to her that she could trust me beyond a shadow of a doubt, and to make her see that the bet meant absolutely nothing to me.

I vowed to become an even more new and improved version of Edward Cullen.

And I vowed to start that night.

A/N: Not that I expect anyone to care too much about my personal life, but this aspect will have a direct impact on my writing, so I'm sharing.

I'm nearing the end of graduate school (HOORAY!), and as a result I have a lovely 75 page clinical competency paper that I've just begun working on. Once that's turned in (June), I have a 150 page portfolio to assemble. On top of this fun, I still get to work 40 hours a week at my job and intern 24 hours a week in addition to that.

What I'm trying to say is ... I might get a bit loopy, my updates might not be as frequent as they could be, and I might not be around as much as normal on Facebook or Twitter. Rest assured the show will go on, and this story will complete by the end of the summer. Writing is my form of self-care, it's just going to be a little harder penciling in large chunks of time to do it for a while.

I also have some big news coming on the horizon. Hopefully I can say more in the next three weeks or so. :)

Thanks again for being here. And for your reviews. I'm horrid at responding, but I do read every one, and some give me a good giggle. Like the ones wanting to kill Rose after the last chapter. ;)

Until next time...