I know it's been far too long, but I think you will really enjoy this chapter. Hopefully it was worth the wait.
Thank you to My-Bella and Hope4More for all their help. This story wouldn't be half of what it is without them.
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Election Day continued…
It had been an incredibly long day and I was more than ready to get out of here and go home with Edward.
"You're tired," Edward said softly as he pulled me towards a couple of chairs out in the hall where it was cooler. The banquet hall where Tyler's celebratory party was being held was warm from all of the people packed into the space today. I smiled as I thought about the mass amounts of balloons and confetti that still littered the banquet room's floor from the celebration that had ensued all evening.
"I am," I agreed as long yawn escaped. I reached down and slipped my shoes off. I'd been dying to do so for the last few hours.
I had nothing against wearing heels, but doing so for more than eight hours straight was far too long in my opinion.
"Want me to go see if we can go ahead and get out of here? Tyler is just schmoozing with all his supporters, all the official business is over. I don't see why we need to stick around.
"But don't we need to wait for them? For the limo?"
"I'll call a cab," he replied.
"That would be awesome," I told him honestly, reaching down to rub the arch of my foot.
"Ok," he said as he stood. After giving me a quick kiss, he went off to find his parents or uncle and promised to be back as fast as he could.
I smiled at the streamers flying out the door to the banquet room as Edward had opened it. Even though the polls had fluctuated all day and Tyler's opponent had gotten close a few times, my father had never taken the lead from him and Tyler had won the election by a large margin.
As I sat there waiting for Edward to return, I was startled by the voice of the last person I wanted to see today or ever really.
"Well, it looks like my patience has served me well today," Renee sneered.
"Go away," I shot back at her, not bothering to even look her way as I grabbed my shoes and got up to head back into the banquet room.
"Run away like a frightened deer. I wonder where you'll run to when they throw you out like yesterday's trash now that the election is over?"
I would have loved to ignore her and pretend I hadn't heard her while hoping she'd go away, but I knew that wouldn't happen.
"What do you want?" I turned to face her, wanting to get this over with as fast as possible.
"What do I want?" she asked with disdain in her voice. "What I want…no, what I expect is for you to march your ungrateful self into your father and beg him for your forgiveness for how you've ruined this election for him. You did, you know. You cost him this election. If his career is ruined, it will all be sitting on your shoulders."
Before I could get a word out to defend myself, she began again.
"And for what? A roll in the hay with one of them?" She pointed towards the door Edward had gone through a few moments ago. "You should be ashamed."
I snorted sarcastically, unable to hold it in. "I've done nothing to be ashamed of and nothing that I need to apologize for," I replied with confidence, standing straighter despite my aching feet. I wasn't even the slightest bit ashamed of my relationship with Edward; what we shared was amazing, and I refused to let her get to me.
She moved to stand directly in front of me.
"Go ahead," I told her. I was getting pissed. I was tired of this crap from her. "You can say whatever you want to me, but all you'll be doing is wasting your breath. There isn't a damn thing you can say to make me ever apologize to you. If anyone owes anyone an apology, it's you who owes me one."
"How dare you talk to me like that," she spat.
"You know what!" I exclaimed, tired of this ridiculous game she wanted to play. "This is a waste of my time. Goodbye, Renee." I turned to walk away from her when I felt myself being tugged backwards by my hair.
"You're not getting away that easily, you pathetic little trollop."
I grabbed her hand and yanked it out of my hair and spun around.
"Go to hell," I retorted.
"Why you…" Her hand rose to hit me.
It all happened like it was a slow motion movie. I looked up to see where her hand was so I could block her hit. Distracted by the glare of her diamond bracelet in the bright light hanging from the ceiling as her hand began to move towards me, I never saw someone approaching us until another hand had grasped Renee's in mid-air and stopped it in its path.
"Not my daughter you, bitch." The sound of Esme's hand connecting with Renee's face echoed off the walls of the long hall. Renee stood there stunned with her mouth hanging open and the visible red outline of Esme's hand still marking her cheek. When Renee recovered enough to try and speak, Esme shut her up quickly with a warning in a deathly tone as she moved in so close to Renee their noses were practically touching. "If you know what's good for you, you will slither back under the rock you came out from under and never show your face to Bella or any other member of my family ever again."
I didn't know where she had come from, but I was never more glad to see Esme. And never more proud to have someone call me their daughter. Esme Cullen was the type of mother every child should have. She would go to the ends of the earth to protect those she loved and I was very lucky to be among her loved ones.
"What the hell is goi— Mom?"
I turned around and saw Edward coming towards us with Garrett right behind him. Edward pulled me into his arms the second I was within his reach.
"Bella? Are you okay?" he asked. He was looking at me as if he were going over a mental checklist to make sure I didn't have a scratch on me. Once he was satisfied I wasn't harmed, he asked, "Where the hell did she come from?" His voice was harsh, filled with hate as he glared at Renee
"Yes I'm fine," I assured him as he leaned down and gave me a brief kiss. In his eyes I could see a war raging between his concern for me and his anger towards Renee. "And I don't know where she was. From what she said she must have been waiting for an opportunity to corner me. She started her usual way of taunting me and when I tried to walk away, refusing to listen to her, she attacked me," I explained. "She was about to hit me and would have had your mom not stopped her."
"And I'd do it again in a heartbeat," Esme said, giving my hand a tight squeeze while shooting a deathly glare at Renee. "No one lays a hand on any of my children and gets away with it."
"She's not your dau—"
"Don't even think about calling her your daughter," Esme hissed at Renee. "You have no idea what a precious young woman she is because you tossed her aside like she was some doll you were bored of playing with. You don't deserve her, much less deserve the right to claim her as your own. I'm just grateful she came into our lives when she did before you were allowed to do any more damage than what you already had."
"Mrs. Swan," Garrett stated calmly. "I don't believe there is any reason for you to be here any longer. Neither Miss Swan or the Cullens have anything further to discuss with you. Now come with me and I will arrange for a car to take you to home," he added, the firm tone of his voice indicating it wasn't a request.
"I'll leave when I am damn good and ready to. Not a minute before and not until I have settled some unfinished business with my daughter," she snapped.
"I told you—"
"Esme, I'll handle this," Tyler stated as he walked up behind us. My mother nodded and stepped back from Renee. "Garrett, do you still have that information I requested?"
"Yes," Garrett replied. Reaching into his suit jacket he brought out an envelope and passed it to Tyler.
"Mrs. Swan, I think the information you'll find in this envelope will be enough to prevent you from ever having any further contact with Bella or any other member of my family."
"What is this? You can't tell me who I can and can't associate with,"
I couldn't help the snicker that escaped from me. It was just a few months ago when I'd said those exact words to her. Karma is a bitch.
"Do you know what that is?" I asked Edward softly.
"No. Not a clue," he whispered, keeping his arms wrapped tightly around my waist as he stood behind me. He placed a quick kiss on my head and then added, "But judging from the look on Renee's face, it's not a good thing. At least not for her."
I turned my gaze to her and saw what Edward meant. Renee's eyes were the size of saucers and about to pop out of her head.
"This," she said thrusting the paper in her hand towards Tyler and Garrett, while her face contorted into a mask of rage and hatred, "Is not what you think it is."
"I am not going to argue with you about this," Tyler stated. "There's nothing you can say to convince me that there isn't something fishy about you being in a hotel suite alone with the very same reporter who had taken the pictures of Edward and Bella. That's not just some coincidence. Now I will only make this suggestion one more time," Tyler told her, his voice low and serious. "Leave here now and leave my family, which includes Bella, alone."
"Just because you won this election doesn't mean you can bully me," Renee shot back at him, still refusing to be on her way.
Tyler released a long sigh of frustration. He then closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose like I'd seen Edward do many times.
Guess that Cullen charm and smile aren't the only inherited traits the men of this family share.
When Tyler opened his eyes he sighed again and held out his hand to Garrett. Garrett retrieved another envelope and passed it to Tyler once more.
"I was hoping to not have to do this. But you've left me no choice." Tyler handed the envelope to Renee who huffed as she jerked it from his hand.
"This is getting ridiculous," she laughed sarcastically.
For the life of me I couldn't figure out how she could find any of this even remotely humorous.
"I'm certain what's there will clear up any further arguments you might think you have," Tyler stated.
Renee hastily removed what looked to be about four or five pictures from the envelope. "You son of a bitch," she sneered and lunged herself at Tyler, landing a hard blow against him with her fist.
Garrett quickly pulled her off of Tyler before she could pound a second blow to his chest.
Renee was seething and drooling like a rabid dog. I was stunned, blown away by how completely unraveled she was becoming. I'd seen her angry before. Furious even. But even as angry as she'd been the night of the Black and White Ball, she had never once lost her composure. She'd never lost her confidence or had come unglued like she was tonight. It made me wonder just what it was that was on those pictures.
"You'll pay for this. I'll sue you for every penny you have. We'll see what this city thinks of you then," Renee spat, spraying the floor with her spit as she spoke. "You had no right to take those pictures. What I do with my private life is none of your damn business." She shook her head and then an evil grin washed over her face. "My attorneys are going to eat this up. Your name won't be worth the dirt you walk on when I'm through with you. And you too, you little ungrateful bitch," she seethed turning her anger towards me. "I'll make sure you never step foot in that nursing school again. Your father and I gave you everything. A life full of everything you could ever want. And this is how you repay us."
I pried myself from between Edward's arms when he tried to hold me back and moved so I was standing in front of her, looking her dead in the eye. "That's where you're wrong. All you ever gave me were things. Things that meant absolutely nothing to me. The one thing I wanted the most, the only thing I ever wanted from you was love."
"Humph," she grunted and shrugged out of Garret's hold. "Love is overrated. It won't get you anywhere in life. And you're a fool if you think it will or that what you have now with these people is going to last."
I leaned in closer to her. "If all I could have is one day with this family, I'd gladly trade it for my entire life with you. They've given me their love unconditionally and that is something I'll never regret."
"Mrs. Swan," Garrett interjected. "I suggest you stop threatening this family, Miss Swan included. Mr. Cullen and I are not only prepared to take legal action and obtain a restraining order, but also to take these pictures public if you don't stop harassing Bella and leave the Cullens alone. I doubt the public image you have tried to maintain, much less your marriage, would fare well if that were to happen."
"I'm done with you and your manipulative games," I told her, hoping it was the last time I ever saw her. Without waiting for her to respond, I turned back to Edward. "Can we go now? I wanna go home."
"Sure," he said softly, placing a kiss on my forehead. "Garrett, I know you were going to have the limo take us and come back here, but I can just call a cab. I need to get Bella out of here."
"Emmett drove himself and Rosalie here. Why don't you find them as well as Jasper and Alice and all of you kids get out of here," Tyler suggested.
"Sounds good," Edward replied with a nod to his uncle.
"Come on, I'll help you find them," Esme offered.
Before we passed by Tyler, he stopped me and embraced me in a warm hug. "Don't you worry about her, Bella. She won't be bothering you anymore. I promise," he said lowly.
I nodded. He gave me a soft smile and a fatherly kiss to my cheek before letting us pass by.
Hearing what Tyler had said, Edward winked at me and had a hint of that uneven smile of his that I loved curving the corner of his mouth. "See I told you we take care of our own."
I smiled up at him and slipped my hand in his, ready for this day to be over.
November 24, 2011
I buried my face into the crook of Bella's neck, hiding from the bright sunlight bursting through the window of my room. I inhaled deeply, loving the smell of her lavender scented shampoo. There was nothing better than waking up with her in my arms and I'd had the extreme pleasure of doing just that every morning for the past few weeks. She'd been staying here at the condo with us since the media had been hounding her again after the outcome of the election.
Raising my head just slightly, I tucked her hair back away from her neck and kissed a path from the sweet sensitive spot behind her ear, to the edge of her shoulder and back.
"Mmmm," I heard her moan softly as she began to wake up. Her hand grasped mine that was resting on her hip and slipped it up under the t-shirt of mine she'd taken to sleeping in nearly every night, and placed it on her breast. "Love me, Edward," she whispered huskily in a sleepy voice.
It was all the invitation I needed.
Pulling my shirt off her and tugging my boxers off, I rolled her over. Slipping my hand under her panties, I slid them down her legs. If I lived to be a hundred and seven, I'd never tire of seeing her this way. She was perfect. The most beautiful creature I'd ever seen, and that was with her clothes on. There were no words that could adequately describe her naked. Exquisite didn't even begin to touch on how beautiful she was.
Wishing for a way to have my hands on her everywhere all at once, I settled for the most intimate of places to feel her first. I slowly moved my hand up the inside of her thigh until I reached where I wanted to touch her. She instantly responded, letting out a soft whimper as she moved in time with my hand. Capturing her breast between my lips, I caressed and teased her with my mouth and fingers until she was breathing in short shallow pants and starting to squirm, telling me she was ready for more.
Her arms slid up my back and clung tightly to my shoulders. As I eased into her, her eyes fluttered closed briefly before they opened back up and locked with mine. Bella's eyes were filled with love and desire, looking like pools of molten dark chocolate. I was lost in her gaze as we began to move together and the intense feeling of us fusing together as one took over.
Nothing in this world felt better.
"Kiss me," she demanded through her quick breaths.
As I lowered my mouth to hers and kissed her deeply, she wrapped her legs around me and matched my moves, going slower or faster as the urge to feed our never ending craving for one another consumed us.
Bella had become an incredible lover and I was enjoying every minute of teaching her the art of love-making and watching as her shyness melted away.
I knew she was close when her nails dug harder into my back and her legs clamped tighter around me. My name fell from her lips in a soft breathy cry as I picked up my pace and shifted my angle, pushing her over the edge and following right behind her.
We laid there twisted around each other as we slowly came down from the high our love-making had sent us soaring on.
Kissing her softly, I brushed back the hair that was matted to her forehead in sweat. "I love you, Bright Eyes."
"I love you too." She kissed my chest right over my heart and asked. "What time is it?"
"A little past seven."
"We need to get up."
"Yep the alarm will be going off any minute."
"As much as I am looking forward to our first holiday together and cooking with all the women in your family, I don't want to get out of bed," she said, followed by a big yawn.
"Hmm, you act like you were up late last night," I teased knowing that she had been and why.
She giggled softly as a beaming smile lit up her face. "It was worth it."
Yeah, I'd made love to my girl last night too.
"Come on, sleeping beauty. It's time to get up." I smacked her rear lightly and then tugged on the blankets, threatening to pull them completely off of her when she tried to hide under them. "I'll even let you have the shower first."
Little did she know I had an ulterior motive for letting her shower before me.
She shoved the covers off her head, letting her arms flop down and smack the bed loudly as she faked pouting. She might have been really wishing for some more sleep, but the smile tugging on the corners of her mouth told me she was more excited for our first Thanksgiving together.
I shook my head and chuckled at her while I pulled on a pair of sleep pants and a t-shirt as Bella finally got up and pulled the sheet from the bed and wrapped herself in it. Seeing her so adorably grumpy over having to get up in the morning was a regular occurrence. Bella just simply wasn't a morning person no matter what her day entailed.
After another quick kiss, I left her to use my shower while I went off under the guise of getting something to eat. What I was really going to do was to see if my parents were awake so I could shower as well and be back in my room by the time Bella got out of the shower.
I had gotten my parents' approval to ask her to move in here with us once the semester was up at school, but I had another more important question to ask her first.
"Good morning, Mom." I was happy to see her at the counter pouring herself a cup of coffee when I reached the kitchen.
Kissing her on the cheek I asked, "Is Dad awake?"
"Yes, he just ran down to grab the paper."
"Good. I'm gonna shower real quick in your bathroom if that's okay," I told her.
"Bella using yours?" she asked.
"Yeah," I replied not bothering to even try and fight the huge grin that appeared on my face.
"Ahhh. I see what's going on here," she declared while lifting her cup to her lips and taking a sip. When she lowered the cup she was wearing a smile nearly as wide as mine. "Today's the big day, huh?"
"Yes. I can't think of a better day than Thanksgiving or a more perfect way to show her how thankful I am she gave me a second chance."
"I think it's perfect. But you better hurry or she'll beat you out of the shower," she ordered.
I could hear her chuckling as I took off down the hall.
After sneaking into my room to grab some clothes, I took the fastest shower of my life and luckily when I made it back to my room Bella was still in the bathroom drying her hair. I loved her hair but right now I loved it even more for being so long and thick. Having it take so long to dry was probably the only thing that kept her in the bathroom longer than me.
Taking long strides I made my way across the room to my dresser. Pulling open the top drawer I dug through my clothes to the back of it and took out the small blue velvet box I had hidden there. Popping the top open, I glanced at the ring one last time. It had a square cut solitaire, or princess cut as my mom had called it, nestled between two bands that intertwined at the top. One of the bands was smooth and shiny, and the other had tiny crisscross markings on it to give it a textured look. I was certain it was perfect for Bella. Simple and pretty, just like her.
My attention was drawn from the ring to the bathroom when I heard the hair dryer shut off. I quickly tucked the box into my jeans pocket and sat on the end of my bed. Seeing it still a mess from our morning activities had me grinning like a fool.
Bella saw it the instant she opened the bathroom door.
"You look like the cat that just swallowed the canary," she teased. "Whatcha up to over there, Cullen?"
"Was just thinking about how this bed got so messy," I told her, feeling my smile widen. "Come here."
I patted the spot on the bed next to where I was sitting as I took in how gorgeous she looked. She was dressed simply in a long wine colored sweater that clung to her curves perfectly. Her hair fell in soft waves past the scarf hanging loosely around her neck. Black snug fitting jeans hugged her long legs and the curve of her ass like a second skin, and the boots she was wearing helped accentuate the shape of her legs.
Unable to resist the urge to touch her, I grabbed her hand and pulled her down on my lap just before she sat on the bed.
"You look beautiful."
"You look pretty good yourself," she replied sliding her hand to the back of my neck just below the collar of my shirt. My eyes closed, loving the sensation of her fingers lightly scratching back and forth across my skin.
She leaned forward and kissed me softly. "Is it about time to go?"
"Soon," I replied. Clearing my throat I continued. "But before we do, there's something I wanted to talk to you about. Actually there's something I wanted to ask you."
She pulled back slightly, searching my face for clues to what was going on.
"What's wrong? she asked, a mask of concern covering her face.
"Nothing, sweetheart. I promise there's nothing wrong," I assured her.
"Okay," she said, dragging the word out like she wasn't convinced but the concernd look she's had on her face melted into one of curiosity.
"So, um…" I shifted her onto the bed so that I could dig into my pocket and get the ring. After I had it in my hand, I kept my hand fisted around it at my side furthest away from Bella so she couldn't see it yet. "I've been wanting to do something, give you something to show you how much I love you and give you an idea of what I see in our future."
"I know you love me, Edward. You don't have to do anything to prove that to me," she insisted and I could see in her eyes just how much she'd meant those words. I knew she didn't doubt my love for her, but after all she'd been through with her parents I felt the need to show her I'd never walk away from her like they had. She had changed and was still changing, accepting my family in her life and accepting that they wanted her in all our lives. But there were still times when I saw the doubt creep in and I wanted to show her that I was here for good. For forever.
"Even so, I need for you to know just exactly what I want. Where I want things to go for us."
"Okay," she said again.
"I know you've heard about the so called Cullen Curse. I know we haven't talked much about it, and I know for a long while before you met me you had been looking forward to getting out on your own and living your life as you wanted, fulfilling your own dreams and not those of everyone around you."
Reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear and lift her chin so I could see her face, I paused for a second to see if there were any signs of her freaking out on me. When I didn't see anything but love and curiosity I went on. "If what I'm about to say is too much or too soon and you need more time, I'll understand. I just want to make sure you know I'm not going anywhere. I've known for a while now that there would never be anyone else for me. That I would never love anyone else the way I love you. Hell, I think I've loved you from the moment I stepped on your sunglasses and knocked you on your ass. Truth is you knocked me on my ass just as hard that day."
She snorted and the smile that lit her face was bright like a shooting star screaming across the dark night sky.
I moved my hand with the ring in it around until it was resting on my leg. The movement of my arm caught Bella's attention and she gasped when she saw it.
"Shhhh, let me finish. It's not exactly what you think it is. Okay?"
She nodded with tears welling in her eyes.
"Don't cry. It's a good thing, I promise," I whispered to her as I reached up and wiped away a tear that was sitting on the edge of her lashes about to jump onto her cheek.
"Kay," was all she managed to get out.
"We've only been together for a few months, which to some isn't long, but I know there will never be anyone else for me. While I know it's too soon for us to take certain steps to bind ourselves to each other forever, I think it's the perfect time for us to make a promise of what we want for our future together."
Her eyebrows scrunched in confusion over the fact I'd basically just told her the box in my hand didn't contain an engagement ring, but yet I was talking about us promising to be together in the future. I knew my words were what was confusing her, I knew they were more or less contradicting each other, so I thought it best if I made it clear to her what I meant.
"So with that being said…" I turned so my whole body was facing her and I opened the box. Plucking the ring out and gazing into her eyes, I took her left hand in mine. "I'd like to ask you to wear this ring with my promise that I will one day ask you to marry me and be my wife and for you to promise to me that when that day comes you will say yes."
"Promised," she whispered so faintly I'd barely heard her.
"Yes, I'm asking you to be promised to me. Engaged to be engaged you could call it. Will you do that, Bright Eyes? Will you promise to say yes to marrying me some day in our future?"
"Yes," she cried, lunging at me and wrapping her arms around my neck. "I promise."
I held her tightly in my arms, never wanting to let her go. However I knew we'd have to leave soon for my uncle's house. Releasing her, I took her hand in mine again and slipped the ring on her finger.
"Oh, Edward. It's beautiful," she whispered while tears trickled down her cheeks as she glanced back and forth between it and me.
"You sure?" I asked hesitantly not wanting to really consider that she wouldn't have said yes if she wasn't. "I know you had plans—"
"Yes I'm sure, you silly man. I may have had plans for what I wanted to do with my life once the summer was over, but then I met you. And now…well now I have hopes and dreams too, Edward. Dreams of things I never even thought I'd have and it's all because of you. I love you."
"I love you too." Cupping her face in my hands I kissed her, pouring all my love for her into the kiss.
When we broke apart she held her hand to the light before bringing it in for a closer look. "It's beautiful."
"Not nearly as beautiful as you."
After sealing our promise with another kiss, I told her the history of the ring and how it was the first ring my father had ever given my mother. A fresh round of tears came with the knowledge that my mother loved Bella enough to let me give her a ring that meant so much to her and my father.
"So I have one more question for you," I told her as I peppered soft kisses along her jaw, not stopping until I reached the sweet spot behind her ear.
"What's that?" she asked in a breathy voice.
Yeah I knew what my lips on her there did to her, but I was unable to help myself at the moment.
So fucking irresistible.
"Well lately you've spent a lot more time here at the condo than you have at your dorm room. I know there have been several reasons for that—the media attention and you not being totally comfortable around Luke even if he is dating Skylar now. But I've grown rather fond of falling asleep with you in my arms every night and waking up to you every morning. And well, the truth is it's not just me that loves having you here. So I was wondering what you'd think of moving in here…permanently?"
The idea of her living here all the time had popped into my head when she'd referred to this place as home the night of the election. I'd talked to my parents a few days later and they both loved the idea as well. They loved Bella as much as I did.
"But what about your p—"
"My parents are completely onboard with the idea. Like I said, I'm not the only one who loves having you here all the time. I've already talked to them about it. I know you already put in to have a private dorm room next semester, but—"
This time she was the one quieting me with her hand covering my mouth.
"Let me think about it for a day or two. Ultimately I think it would be amazing to be here with you and your parents all the time. But it's a big step. Huge. So let me think it over. Okay?"
I knew Bella well enough to know she was a thinker. She had to weigh the pros and cons of something like moving in here before she could make a decision. It wasn't like her decision to be promised to me. Agreeing to the promise ring was based completely on our love for each other and what we both knew we wanted for our future.
However, knowing Bella she would have to resolve every possible worst case scenario her imagination could come up with before she decided whether or not she wanted to live here. I could already see the gears spinning in her pretty head. And knowing that was exactly what she needed to do, I wouldn't push her at all. If she wasn't ready now, I was positive the time would come down the road when she would be, and I'd make sure she knew the offer would always be there.
"Take as long as you need. Remember I'm not going anywhere and the offer will remain open should you change your mind later."
I was leaning in to kiss her again when a knock on the door interrupted us. The knock was followed by my mom asking if she could come in. After answering yes, the door opened and Bella was instantly jumping up and hugging my mother so hard the both stumbled from the force.
"Let's see how it looks," my mother insisted.
Bella held out her hand for my mom to see.
"I just knew it would be perfect for you."
They hugged again before my mom asked if we were ready to go.
"I just need a couple of seconds to fix my makeup," Bella requested.
"No you don't," I told her.
"I'm not going looking like a raccoon, Edward," Bella complained, causing me to chuckle at her.
She shot me the evil eye as she hurried into the bathroom while my mom told me to leave her alone and go help my father put the pies and homemade bread we were taking with us in the car.
We were just sitting down to dinner when I found myself watching Bella again. I'd spent the day enjoying my time with my family, watching football with my dad, uncle, Emmett and Jasper, but mostly I had spent my time fixated on the woman who had promised herself to me this morning. And it seemed even when I wasn't watching her, I was talking or thinking about her.
Was I whipped? Maybe, but I didn't really give a shit. I had seen my father bestow just as much attention on my mother over the years and even more recently had seen the same amount of attention paid to my aunt by Tyler. If I had to bet I'd most likely win if I was betting that Jasper was the same way with Alice. I'd also venture a guess that it extended to Emmett and Rosalie as well even though he wasn't a Cullen. Rosalie would accept nothing less. As far as I was concerned there was nothing wrong with being so completely in love with the woman in your life.
It was a blessing, not a curse.
Watching her cook with my mom and aunt, seeing her talk about school with my grandmother, and joke with my uncle—just seeing her so comfortable and at ease with my family made me love her even more. I knew what everyone was seeing today was the real Bella. The spunky, confident, amazing woman I'd met this past summer. She fit perfectly as if she'd always been meant to be a part of our family.
"I hope you're hungry," Bella said, sitting down in the chair next to me at the large dining room table. Everyone else was filling in the rest of the spots around us.
"Starved," I told her, wagging my eyebrows suggestively to tease her.
"You're insatiable, Edward Cullen. I meant for food," she chastised softly and pinched my side playfully.
With my hand under the table where it couldn't be seen, I slid it up the inside of her thigh until I was stopped by her clenching them together. Placing my mouth right next to her ear, I whispered back to her, "I'd rather have desert first."
She amazingly remained calm enough to not blush completely, but being right next to her allowed me to see the effects of my teasing. Her chest rose and fell more quickly with her increased breaths and being so much taller than her gave me the ability to steal a quick glance down her sweater and see the pink color tinting her chest. Not to mention the vice grip her thighs held my hand in.
We were pulled from the private game we were playing when my grandmother announced it was time for everyone to say what they were most thankful for this year.
There had been a few tears when she began and spoke about how thankful she was to have all of her children and grandchildren together this year, but how deeply she missed my grandfather. I didn't know the man or have any memories of him to miss, but seeing how much he was loved by those that did, I knew he had to have had a lot of good in him despite the hurt he'd caused my father.
Jasper and Emmett teased me with their awes when I'd said I was thankful to have found Bella. But Bella and I paid them back when they'd said the same about Alice and Rose which caused everyone to laugh.
Then it was Bella's turn.
"I um…I think you all probably can guess that I'm thankful to have Edward in my life. I love him more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone. But I am also so very, very thankful for all of you," she said, her voice shaking with emotion while she gestured with her hand to everyone at the table. "The only real family I've ever had in my life is the time I've spent with Alice and her family. And while I love them all and will forever be grateful for all the love and support they've given me, I never had a more real sense of belonging to a family than I have with all of you, especially here today. So…thank you, to all of you for allowing me to be a part of this."
I could see she was close to tears and took a second to scoot my chair back a bit so I could pull her into my arms and just hold her while she regained control over her emotions.
"I'm okay," she murmured a couple of moments later and blew out a long cleansing breath as she sat up.
I kissed her forehead and then moved my chair back into position, but reached under the table and took her hand in mine, feeling the ring that I had put on her finger. She was everything to me and knew I wouldn't be able to wait long to put another ring there or the one that would come after that.
Later that night when I was on my way to the kitchen to grab a beer for me and Emmett, I saw Bella standing by the sliding glass doors. She appeared to be staring out at the dark deck and backyard while twisting the ring I'd given her on her finger.
Was she second guessing it?
Walking up behind her, I snaked my arms around her waist and leaned against her, pressing my lips against her shoulder. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Just thinking." She sighed and let all her weight rest on me.
I couldn't bring myself to ask if she was having second thoughts. I had to trust that if she had any doubts she wouldn't have taken the ring or that if she did have doubts she'd talk to me about them. So I went with the next option I could come up with.
"If you're ready to go, we can leave. Grandma is asleep in her chair. Dad and Tyler are engrossed in the game. Mom and Beth are planning their shopping spree tomorrow, and I think the others have snuck off to Jasper and Rose's rooms. So we can take off if you want," I offered.
"My answer is yes," she decided suddenly as she turned in my arms and slid her hands up my chest and locked them behind my neck.
"Okay," I replied giving her a quick peck on the lips. "Let's go say goodbye to everyone and we'll go."
She was confusing the hell out of me. Hadn't she just said she wanted to leave?
Seeing my confusion she clarified. "What I mean is that's not what I was saying yes to. Well, actually yes I am ready to go, but what I really meant was yes to moving in with you."
She spit it out so fast I'd barely had time to wrap my head around what she was talking about. It took a second but then it clicked.
"Really?" I asked not even bothering to contain my excitement.
"I've never been more sure about anything else in my life other than when I knew I loved you and this morning when you gave me this ring." She held her hand in front of my face and wiggled her finger. "You remember everything I said at dinner?" she asked.
She looked up at me and had this spark in her eyes. They were shinning so brightly, full of truth, love, and sincerity. She had this look about her that I'd never seen before. It was fierce, but in a good way.
"I guess you could say I've had an epiphany tonight."
"How so?" I asked.
"I was standing here and thinking about everything that's happened over the past few months and about today and I realized, I fit in here."
I instantly felt myself smiling. One, because I'd been waiting for her to see it and I was so damn happy she finally had. And two, because I'd been thinking the same thing earlier.
"For so long I've always felt like I didn't fit. Like I was always searching for somewhere I belonged. But I don't have to do that anymore, do I? I've found it. Here with you, with your family. This is where I belong."
"Yes it is," I told her before I lowered my mouth to hers and kissed her. I kissed her because I loved her. I kissed her for the amazing future I knew we were going to have. And I kissed her because she was my Bright Eyes and she was exactly where she belonged.
I hope you all enjoyed the chapter. I can't wait to see what you think. All we have left is the epilogue and I promise to have it up as fast as I can. I know you are all probably wondering what happened with Renee and Charles. I promise it will be covered in the epilogue, along with a clear picture of their Happy Ever After. There are pictures of their Thanksgiving Day outfits and Bella's promise ring on the blog.
Thanks for reading. You guys are the best.
See ya next time,