Hello, dear readers. Well, as you can see, I started a new story. I'm already well into it in my mind and this one is a change, a slightly different style from my other ones. It will have drama, humor, romance and…a ghost. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks a million times to Rhi my beta for taking on this new story and for your opinions. Many thanks as well to V for pre-reading and for allowing me share this story.
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. I own the contents of this story.
"Here, Zoe." I handed her a pillow. "Go put this on your bed."
She took it and skipped out the door, my vibrant seven-year-old that looked almost exactly like me in her face and dark brown hair, except for that she had her father's light blue eyes. I watched her go, closing my eyes for a moment. David, how I miss you still.
I sat down on the edge of my bed and clutched my pillow to my stomach. The loss of my husband still hit me hard even after almost two years later. His sudden death from a cerebral hemorrhage had blind-sided me. I hadn't even gotten to tell him good-bye. One moment we were there laughing over something silly, the next he was clutching his head and falling to the ground, gone in an instant.
I closed my eyes tightly and lowered my head. The grief still overwhelmed me at times, but I was hoping that this new start in a new house in a new town would ease that.
I stood up and tossed my pillow on my bed, then strode to the French doors, opening them and stepping onto my large balcony that overlooked the gardens. They, like everything else in this house, were in dire need of some love and attention. That garden had been one of the main reasons I had bought this old, large mansion. I had stood right here on this very spot and seen what it had been in the past in all its former glory and thought, I'm going to make it bloom again and be beautiful in memory of my husband. So that when I stroll its paths with his daughter's hand in mine, I'll remember his love.
I would need a landscape architect to take on this large of scale of project. The garden and orchard, the remnants of the maze, the small lake, and gazebo needed much work. I needed someone with vision to make it beautiful again. I turned and looked up at the deep red brick and sandy colored stone of my enormous home built in the Queen Anne style. It even had a name it was so impressive: Edenwick Park.
It had seemed a bit foolish to my dad when I had purchased this estate, but I had wanted it desperately the first time I laid eyes on it. I could easily afford it. David had been very rich and owned his own company, which I still held the controlling shares of. I had simply sold off all our other properties we owned: the yacht, everything I knew I'd never visit or use again, and bought Edenwick. I needed something new for my daughter and I, some place without any memories of David and where I could make a new life for the two of us.
"I've gotten the kitchen set up, Bella. You need help with yours and Zoe's bedrooms?" Caroline asked me from the bedroom door.
I turned and gave her a small smile. "Thank you, Caro. I think I'm good here, but Zoe may need some help." She nodded and went down the hall to aid Zoe in unpacking.
Caro had been with us for years doing everything from cooking to helping me take care of Zoe. She was getting very gray now and was getting quite plump in her old age. She had a wide, kind face and almost black eyes. At one time in her youth, it was clear she had been very pretty.
We loved Caro. She was more than an employee, she was a friend and Zoe adored her like a grandma. She was sixty years old, and I was afraid she would retire and leave us, but so far she had stayed, even coming on to Edenwick with us. I paid her very well for her services, but even more than her help, I valued her friendship and almost motherly attention. She took good care of Zoe and I, and thank God, because these past couple of years had been hell for me.
I finished unpacking my bags and boxes and then went to help Caro cook dinner. I made the salad as she cooked us up some spaghetti and meatballs in marinara sauce and even threw a batch of cookies into the oven with Zoe's help. She said this was our first supper at our new home and should be a special one. I agreed, and as we sat down to eat, Zoe looked at me with a frown.
"Do I really have to go to school here?"
"Yes, you do. I already have you enrolled in your second grade class at the small, private school near here. I know it's past half-way through the school year, but you're a smart girl and you'll catch up quickly."
"What if no one likes me?" she sulked.
"You just be your usual, friendly self, and you'll make friends in no time. Now, let's eat this dinner and then we'll get your backpack and clothes ready for school in the morning."
She nodded and dug into her spaghetti, and I sighed to myself. She was growing up so quickly. It seemed only yesterday she was a tiny baby I held in my arms and rocked to sleep.
After I had gotten her in bed for the night and quieted her fears about her first day of school the next day, I went to my bedroom and pulled up the internet on my laptop. I needed contractors. One for the house and one for the garden, well, even the drive needed repaving. So much work to be done. Thank goodness it was nearly spring and the winter snows were over. I found some likely candidates and would have my lawyer check them out to see who was trustworthy to bring into my home. After the renovations and refurbishing, I was going to need a good interior decorator as well, but that could wait.
I grinned, realizing that this project was good for me. It was giving me something to do to keep my mind off being a widow and lonely for the arms of a man holding me tight. I missed that so much. Just having a man hold me to him and let me rest in his warmth and strength. Well, someday, maybe, I could move past this hold I still had on my husband's ghost and start dating again. Someday.
"I don't want to do this, Mom," Zoe said with a frown as she watched the other uniformed girls enter the front doors.
"I'll park and walk you in."
"No. Uh, I'll go in myself. The office was on the right, when you entered the front doors, right, Mom?"
I nodded. My girl was so mature. Like a grown up in a little girl's body.
"Okay, wish me luck. Love you!" she called as she hopped out of the car.
"Love you. I'll be here at two-thirty to pick you up."
She nodded and slammed the door, and I watched her walk in the school's double front doors before I drove off. I said a quick prayer that her day would go smoothly and then headed back home.
When I got home, my lawyer, Carlisle Cullen, called and told me he had a couple of recommendations for me, but his voice held trepidation.
"Why the strangeness about the contractors?" I asked.
He hesitated and then said, "Well, because they're my family. I've been yours and before that, David's lawyer for years, and I think you know you can trust me."
"Yes. I know I can trust you. I actually like the thought of you recommending me people you know well. My main concern was safety with just me, Zoe, and Caroline there by ourselves."
"Well, I can assure you that Jasper, my son-in-law, who's a contractor specializing in renovations old houses, and my son, Edward, a landscape architect, are beyond reproach. I can have them call you and each set up a visit to Edenwick to give you estimates and discuss details. Now, I don't expect you to, nor will I be offended, if you do not hire them. I'll give you other choices as well that are good business men that I know you can trust."
"Thanks. You've been so helpful. Let me talk with Jasper and Edward, and then we'll see. I have a vision for the house and garden, and I need people that can give me what I'm looking for."
"I'll pass on your number. They'll be in contact."
"Thanks, Carlisle. How's Esme?"
"She's great. Thanks for asking."
"Good. Tell her I said hello."
"I will. Take care, Bella."
"Yep," I said and hung up.
Well, that was one thing started. I put my phone in my pocket and went to help Caro with more unpacking. We choose a room to be our family room with the television and comfortable furniture and got that set up. Zoe would be happy to have her DVD collection out. She loved watching movies and owned a huge collection of them.
Jasper called me, and we talked for a short while. I liked him immediately. He seemed friendly and very enthusiastic about taking on my renovations. He was coming the day after tomorrow to do a walk through with me and take notes, and then he'd be able to give me a time-frame of how long the work would take and how much it would cost me.
The next call sort of rattled me. As relaxed as I had been talking to Jasper, Edward Cullen was a totally different matter entirely.
"Mrs. Bishop?" asked a soft spoken male voice.
"This is Edward Cullen. I believe my father spoke with you. You were looking for a landscape architect?"
"Yes. I just purchased Edenwick Park, and it came with extensive grounds, but they're in dire need of attention, and I have some ideas, some features, I'd like to see added."
"I know of Edenwick Park. I visited there once when the previous owner was still living, and truthfully, it's a challenge I'd love to take on. I'd love to restore it to its former glory that it was at the turn of the twentieth century."
"That is what I'm looking for. When can you come by and look it over again? I'm sure it's changed for the worse since the last time you visited."
"I can come over tomorrow morning, if that's okay."
"Perfect. I'll see you then."
"Yes. In the meantime, I'll do research and see if I can get my hands on the original blue prints for the landscaping. This is exciting. I'll see you tomorrow."
He rung off, and I stood there and tried to figure out why his voice had disturbed me so much. As male voices went, his was very nice. Soft and cultured, a voice you could listen to for hours. I shook my head. He seemed, so far, to be the perfect choice. His enthusiasm had rubbed off on me, and I found myself hoping he would find the original blueprints for the garden.
I noticed the time and realized I had to go pick up Zoe. When she slid into her seat, she was full of excitement from her day. I sighed in relief that it went well.
"…and Mrs. Chandler, she's a great teacher. I met this girl named Emma, and she's really nice. I think we might become best friends. Oh, and we had pizza for lunch! It was good. I have homework to do, and you have some papers to sign, Mom." She chatted on about her first day, and I smiled to myself, so happy that she was adjusting well to the move and her new school.
After supper, I helped her with her schoolwork, and we got her ready for school the next day, her eagerly this night. After she was tucked in bed, I went and pulled up Google on my laptop to see what kind of history I could find on my home. I knew it had been built in 1879 and that it had only been owned by two families since then.
I found a few things, items and stories from the local newspaper, and then one mildly disturbing thing; it said that Edenwick was haunted by the ghost of a woman in a long white dress, who only appears when there is great happiness in the home. How odd. A ghost? We have our own ghost? That was pretty cool, but then I laughed out loud. I was sure those were just stories and there was nothing in this house but dust and the distant memories of the families that lived and loved here before mine.
I got ready for bed and lay down, snuggling under the covers. I turned off my bedside lamp and rolled over and closed my eyes. For some strange reason, Edward Cullen's soft voice resonated through my mind as I drifted off to sleep.
Caro and I were drinking coffee and munching on some pastries when the doorbell rang.
"I'll get that," Caro said. She was soon back with a man following her. I just stared at him.
"This is the landscape guy, Edward Cullen," Caro said. "I'll leave you two to your garden stuff. I've got some more rooms to air out."
She left, and I slowly stood up. Edward was standing there with a sort of briefcase in one hand and his laptop in the other. He shifted from foot to foot as I continued to just look at him.
To say he was not what I had been expecting was an understatement. He was very tall, slim in build, with pale skin and bronze colored hair that was short on the sides and back and a little longer on top. He was dressed casually in jeans, work boots, and a sweatshirt. But it was his face- oh, that face. He was devastatingly handsome, and his eyes that darted to mine were the color of fine emeralds.
Well, this sure should make our working together pleasurable for me, if I got to look at that gorgeous man every day, flitted through my mind.
I shook my head, realizing I was being extremely rude. "I'm sorry. I seem to be out of it today. Forgive me. I'm Bella Swan-Bishop, but you may call me Bella. You're Edward Cullen?"
He shifted his laptop under his left arm and held out his right hand for mine. "Yes. Nice to meet you."
I slid my hand into his, and then my eyes shot to his face. He was looking at our hands with his brow creased in confusion. He quickly let go of my hand and stepped back.
"Bella," he said slowly, "Can I leave my things here and we do a tour of the garden?"
"Sure, but I wanted you to see it from another view first, if you'd follow me. You can leave your things here."
He nodded and sat his computer and bag on the table, and I led him upstairs.
"This is a beautiful home. I believe my father said you planned to restore it as well?"
"Yes. I want it to be again like it was when first built. It's kind of my pet project, this home and garden. Perhaps a way to move past my grief."
We had reached the second floor landing, and Edward stopped and gave me a curious look "Grief?"
"Yes. My husband died suddenly almost two years ago. The readjustment to being a widow, being a single parent, depending on myself, it's been…well, it's been hard."
"I'm sorry. How many children?"
"Just one. Zoe, my seven-year-old daughter."
"I've always loved that name. It was my grandmother's name, and she was quite kind to me as a child."
I went to start walking again and paused in mild surprise. "That was my grandmother's name as well. She, too, was kind. My Zoe is very sweet. Perhaps it's something about that name."
Edward nodded, and I led him to my bedroom. He paused in the doorway, looking around the room.
"Why did you bring me here?"
I strode to the French doors and threw them open.
"To show you this."
I pointed out over the balcony, and he held my eyes for a moment before walking past me and out onto the balcony. He stood there and looked over the grounds for a moment before turning toward me.
I went to my desk in my bedroom and found him a pen and a notepad which he took with a nod. He began to make notes and do some small drawings. He then pulled out his phone and took a lot of pictures of the grounds from all angles on the balcony.
"This is truly helpful. Is there a way to the roof so that I may be able to look down from an even greater height?"
"I'm not sure, but if there is, we'll find it together."
He nodded again and made some more notes on the notepad, and then I led him back into my bedroom and closed the doors behind me. Edward's eyes quickly darted around my room, briefly settling on my bed, before he looked again at the notes he had made.
"Do you want to look for a way to the roof first or walk the garden?" I asked.
"The garden. I want to take a complete inventory of all plants and make a list of all that needs to be removed or trimmed back before I begin on replanting and landscaping. I see that gazebo needs to be inspected thoroughly, as well as the small bridge over the lake. Please keep your daughter away from those places until I say they're safe."
I nodded. I hadn't even thought of that. I was very grateful to him for pointing that out.
"Thank you for thinking of Zoe's safety. Let's go down and you can inspect the garden. Would you mind if I tag along? Will that bother you?"
His eyes shot to mine, before looking away from me. "No, I don't mind at all. In fact, I will need your opinion on trees and plants you wish to keep."
"I'd like to help where I could with this. It means a lot to me. I'm kind of doing this to honor the memory of my late husband and would like to say I contributed more than money and your services to it."
He stared down at his notepad, but nodded his head. "I think it's nice what you're doing. You must have loved him very much."
I was silent for a moment, lost in memories, and then I wrapped my arms around myself and hugged my sides. "I did, of course. He was my husband and the father of my child. What about you? Do you have a family? Children?"
He head shot up, and his startled eyes met mine. "Uh, no. I've never married and no children. I guess you could say I'm married to my work. I travel a lot and am gone from home quite a bit, so relationships are hard. I mostly stick with dating now and then. I don't know. Maybe I just haven't met the right woman yet, or maybe there isn't the right woman out there for me. Maybe my work, making the world a little more beautiful is my purpose." He chuckled and shook his head. "Why I'm telling you all that, I have no idea. Let's go see this garden of yours."
"I don't mind. I did ask, and I seem to be one of those people that invite confidences."
He didn't speak as I led him back downstairs and out to the garden. There, he really came alive. He had his notepad then and was methodically taking notes on the plants and trees.
"Do you wish to keep the rose garden here or perhaps move it over there?" He pointed to the fountain. "I could do a whole rose garden with benches to sit and enjoy the fragrance of the roses while watching the fountain. I'd also like to rebuild that long pathway trellis for the wisteria. You would have a walkway of hanging purple, pinks, and whites." He looked towards the falling down trellis walkway and then to my face before looking back down and jotting down some notes.
"The rose garden sounds lovely, but I not only want roses that look pretty, I insist that they smell good. I always feel let down when a rose doesn't have a scent. As to the wisteria, that sounds beautiful. I can't wait until that's done and I can dance down the stone path underneath the petals."
Edward slowly looked up at me. "I promise you this, Bella: I will make you something beautiful so that you may dance among the flowers."
I was silent for a moment at Edward's words. He was throwing me all off kilter. I felt almost shy and awkward around him, like I was a teenager, which was ridiculous being I was thirty years old and had no interest in him other than as my gardener.
I hugged myself and looked out over the lake. "I'm holding you to that promise."
"I guess that means I'm hired," Edward replied. I turned my head and noticed his small smile.
I smiled in return and slowly nodded. "I guess it does. I'm starving. Let's go have lunch with Caro, and then we go over the garden some more."
"I do not wish to impose. I can keep working as you eat."
"Nonsense. We have plenty, and I'm sure you're hungry. Caro makes great sandwiches. Come with me. I could use some more coffee as well."
"Coffee does sound good, as does a sandwich. Thank you, Bella. You're quite kind."
"You're welcome," I replied and led him back into the kitchen, where Edward booted up his computer and began to enter information he had jotted down while we were outside.
"I've got my secretary, Angela, working on tracking down those original blueprints. I'm hoping we can find who the original designer was and track down his paperwork, if they even still exist," he said as he continued to peck on his keyboard.
"I hope we can find those. Tomorrow, I'll head to the local library and see what I can find out about the history of this house and any thing they might have on file there."
Edward nodded and took a bite of his sandwich, then proceeded to type more on his laptop, checking his notes often.
"You say you travel a lot. I'm not keeping you from a job now, am I? This can wait."
He looked up and shook his head. "No, actually I was inbetween projects. I just finished an indoor garden and green house project, so your timing was perfect. Like I said, I've been dying to get back here and see Edenwick's gardens again. This is the kind of project I love."
"I'm glad to hear that. You said indoor garden?"
He absentmindedly nodded as he sipped his coffee and then took a bite of his sandwich as he read something on his computer screen.
"We have a glass room that must have been like a conservatory. Do you think you could redo that as well?"
"You do? Oh, I'd love to see it. Absolutely, I can redo that as well." He paused and gave me a quite serious look. "You know, this project will take quite some time. A couple of months at the very least, most likely more, and it will be very expensive. Are you quite sure you wish to invest this much time and money into this? I mean, you're looking at something like close to a half-million dollars at least to restore that garden and orchard, the gazebo and bridge, and then the conservatory as well. I don't have exact figures for you yet, because I haven't completed my inspection, but I can tell you that this will be very expensive."
I shrugged. "I had figured on a million, and money is no problem for me, so whatever it takes to make it beautiful, do it."
"You're giving me carte blanche?" he asked with a blink.
"Pretty much. I just have two things that must be agreed to: that you get that fountain working again and you allow me help you. Deal?" I stuck out my hand. He grinned at me, a full wide grin, and if I had thought this man handsome before, it was nothing compared to him then.
He shook my hand, and then I was the one looking at our hands in confusion. "Deal," he said and let go of my fingers, but the slide of his fingertip over my palm had left a burning trail. I slowly lowered my hand to my lap and stared down at my hands clasped together in total bewilderment.
"I'm going to go pick up Zoe from school. That way you two can head back out to the garden and work some more," Caro said. He voice sounded odd, and I darted my eyes to her face to try to figure out why. Her expression was bland, too bland. "I'll be back soon," she said with a wink and left the kitchen. Okay, that was strange.
"Ready?" I asked Edward. He nodded and gulped down the remainder of his coffee before grabbing his notes and following me back outside.
I followed him about, him asking questions and me giving opinions. I heard the back door slam and saw Zoe running down the path toward me. "Mom! I had another great day. This new school is awesome!"
I hugged her and laughed. "I'm so glad, sweetheart. Now, this is Mr. Cullen. He's going to make our garden beautiful again."
"Hi! Oh, you're pretty!" Zoe said with wide eyes.
Edward laughed. "Hi, yourself. I'm Edward, and I assure you, I'm not pretty. Now, you, your mom, you two are very pretty."
"Well, I say you're pretty, but no one is as pretty as my mom."
"Who am I to disagree with such truthfulness?" Edward asked with a grin to Zoe, making me blush.
"Oh, enough. You two are embarrassing me. Let's go check out that gazebo and bridge. Zoe, you are not to go near either one."
"Yes, Mom. I know, the lake as well," she said with a roll of her eyes.
I shook my head and wrapped my arm around her shoulder as we walked toward the lake and I asked her about her day. Edward even chimed in and asked her about her teachers and friends. They really seemed to have hit it off, and I found it harmless so I left them to it.
Edward stayed for another hour and then declared he'd taken enough of my time that day, but asked if he could come back tomorrow. I readily agreed, and we all walked back to the house, and he gathered his things and left with a wave and a small smile.
"I think he's nice," Zoe said with a sigh.
I was quiet for a moment. "You know what, kiddo? I think he's nice, too."
Zoe nodded and took off for the family room to watch a movie.
I heard a chuckle and turned my head to find Caro grinning. "A nice, handsome, hard working man. Those don't grow on trees. They need to be snatched up quickly."
I frowned at her. "Well, someone else can do the snatching. I'm definitely not looking for another husband."
"Doesn't matter now, does it? What if another husband is looking for you?" she asked with a laugh, and I shot her a frustrated, but amused look.
"Don't even start. I see that gleam in your eyes, and you can just stop that now. He's not for me. I just lost David two years ago."
"Two years is a long time. You're a woman that needs a man, and we both know that David would want you to be happy. All I'm saying is that if that nice man asks you out on a date, you should go."
"Oh, you're hopeless. I'm quite sure he wouldn't want to date me anyway, even if I was looking for a man."
"Don't be so sure of that. I'm a lot things, and I may be getting old, but I'm not blind."
She turned around and started fixing dinner while I stood there in dismay.
Did I encourage him? I didn't mean to. I really wasn't looking for a man. I wasn't. I was doing just fine on my own. I wrapped my arms around myself and hugged myself tightly, ignoring the wish in my mind that it was a strong, warm male holding me that way instead. See, I'm just - Edward's smile flashed through my mind, and I shook my head – no, go away. I'm. Just. Fine.
Thanks for reading. Updating this and JoH very soon.
I added a link to a representation of Edenwick Park on my profile.