Thanks to Iris and May for their help on this chapter.
Sorry it took so long.
"Excuse us." I grabbed Edward's hand and led him away from his conversation with Emmett, Carlisle, and Nash. "You owe me a dance, Mr. Masen."
"So bossy, Miss Swan," he said in my ear as he wrapped his arm around me and pulled me closer, guiding our bodies to the slow song. "You know that shit turns me on."
"Oh, I know." I flashed a seductive smile and looked up into his eyes. "Wait 'til later."
I accepted Esme's earlier offer of letting Grace stay the night so Edward and I could have a night alone. The last couple of weeks had been a huge adjustment for everyone. Overnight, my role and life had changed drastically. I'd gone from an eighteen-year-old college student to an eighteen-year-old college student, live-in girlfriend, and full-time mother. Don't get me wrong. I embraced the changes, but that didn't make them any less stressful.
He quirked a brow. "What's happening later?"
"It's a surprise." I winked, placing my head against his chest and closing my eyes. "Just dance with me."
He'd told me earlier that he didn't dance, but the longer we moved, the more he relaxed and seemed to embrace the intimacy just as much as I did. It's moments like that I cherished most of all, when his tenderness and dedication shone through his tough exterior.
After three songs, Edward excused himself to the bathroom and my feet needed a break from the high heels Alice talked me into wearing.
"How are you, Emmett?" I asked, sitting down next to him on the sofa.
He looked tired, and I wondered if it was because of Rose.
"I'm doing okay. How about you?" He finished off his drink and then shook the glass, making the ice cubes rattle.
"You look happy." He leaned forward, placing his elbows on his knees. "Edward's a lucky man."
Despite his demeanor, he sounded sincere.
From across the room, Nash caught my eye. His arm was wrapped around Irina's lower back as they engaged in a conversation with Esme and Alice. Edward said he thought they were more than just friends. I couldn't say for sure, as Nash always kept his private life private, but they sure made a stunning couple.
"I'm divorcing Rose."
Emmett's quiet revelation brought me out of my trance. Edward hadn't told me, and I wondered if he or anyone else knew.
"For what?" he asked, bending his head down. "You weren't the fucking idiot who married her."
I shook my head. "Emmett, you're not an idiot."
He snorted. "I was never her first choice, Bella." He raised his head and looked at me through his red, tear-filled eyes. "I was the consolation prize."
Unsure of what to say, I reached out to touch his arm, but he stood and walked away before I had the chance to.
I balled up my fists as rage soared through my body.
Until now, I'd never hated anyone in my life, not even my mother, but I hated Rose. She was a pathetic excuse for a human being who didn't deserve all the second chances she'd received in life. A leopard doesn't change its spots, and that's exactly what she was. She was messing with people's emotions and lives, and I'd be damned if she was going to screw with anyone else's ever again, especially Grace's.
Right then and there, I vowed to find a way to stop her.
"A toast to the new year and all its changes. May it be the best one, yet."
We all sipped champagne after Carlisle's hopeful words and then counted down the time.
"Five... Four... Three... Two... One!"
Edward's passionate kiss left me tingly all over.
"Let's go home now," I whispered.
We said our goodbyes to everyone and kissed a sleeping Grace before we made our way back to the heart of the city. The whole way home, Edward kept asking me what I had planned when we got home.
The front door was barely closed before Edward attacked me. His mouth assaulted mine with pleasurable force while his hands roughly stripped me of my coat. We briefly broke apart, and he tore off his grey sweater and undershirt, tossing them aside before returning to our frenzied actions. He groaned as I rubbed my hand over his erection through his pants, and then he attempted to turn me to face the wall.
"Wait," I panted, pushing at his shoulders. "Not so fast. I'm calling the shots tonight… or did you forget?"
He slowly shook his head.
"Good. Now, take off those pants. Slowly."
"Did you know Emmett's divorcing Rose?" I asked Edward the next day when we were on our way to pick up Grace.
He quickly looked at me and then back to the road.
"No, I didn't."
"That's what he told me last night."
"He'll be better off."
"Yeah, but I think you should talk to him. He seemed really upset about it."
"Bella, he made his bed. He−"
"He's not a tough guy like you. He needs his friends and family to help him through this."
"You want me to feel sympathy for him? When did he consider my feelings when he was the one getting to raise my daughter? And now I'm supposed to just go and talk to him like I can just put all that behind me?"
"Didn't you forgive him?"
"Yeah, but it's still there in the background, Bella."
"Well, then maybe it's something you guys need to get out in the open. I know you haven't done that, yet."
A few moments of silence passed, and then he grabbed my hand.
"I'll talk to him."
"Thank you. You should do it this weekend while I'm in Arizona."
"I'm gonna miss you, baby," Edward whispered in my ear. "Two days is too long."
I turned and wrapped my arms around his waist.
"I know, but I have to get the rest of my stuff and say a proper goodbye to Angela and Ben."
"I wish I could go with you."
"Well, you can't. You have Grace's first visitation with Rose today. Besides, Jasper will actually help me. You're too easily distracted whenever we're alone. "
His hands slide down my back and squeeze my ass.
"Maybe you shouldn't be such a distraction."
"Me?" I asked and playfully batted my eyelashes. "What do I do?"
He backed me up to the kitchen counter.
I swung my eyes over to where Grace was watching her movie on the living room sofa.
"We're not alone."
He growled into my neck, and the doorbell rang.
"Saved by the bell," I said, laughing as I escaped to the front door to let Jasper inside.
"You be good for your daddy," I told Grace and kissed her cheek while I held her tight.
She nodded, and then I released her to go back to her movie.
"Call me when you get there," Edward said as he hugged me. "The minute you land."
Six hours later, Jasper and I had everything I owned packed up and ready to transport back to Chicago.
"I'm starving, sis," he said. "What sounds good for dinner?"
I thought about it for a bit and decided I hadn't had a good steak since Nash had been here with me.
"How are your grilling skills?"
"I do all right."
"Good," I said as I stood up from the sofa. "Let's get some steaks from the corner market."
We'd just arrived at the store when Angela's ringtone startled me. I grabbed my phone from my pocket and stopped to answer just outside the market's doors.
"Hey. What's up?"
"I need a huge favor, okay?" she whispered.
I frowned at her odd tone.
Jasper gave me a questioning look.
"I need you to pick something up for me."
She blew out a breath but didn't answer.
"Angela, tell me what you need."
"A pregnancy test."
Jasper and I stood in aisle nine and stared at the selections of tests.
"Any suggestions?" I asked him.
He shook his head.
I grabbed two boxes of the brands I'd seen advertised on TV and tossed them into the cart.
"Two?" he asked.
"That's what they do in books."
We then proceeded to the fresh meat case, and Jasper selected our steaks.
A familiar voice behind us made me look back.
"Can't you get your own beer?" my mother asked into her cell phone. "Fine."
When she ended the call, she looked directly at me.
"We gotta go, Jasper."
He turned around.
"Oh, shit," he said. "You don't have to talk to her."
I nodded and faced forward when she started walking toward us.
"Bella, honey. Is that you?" she asked when she was entirely too close.
I ignored her, and Jasper thanked the kid behind the counter when he handed him our wrapped steaks.
"And you're pregnant?" she asked way too loudly. "And with Jasper. Oh, my God. He's like your brother. How could you-"
I swung around.
"Shut the hell up," I growled. "Who I'm with and what's going on in my life are none of your business. You lost that right when you lied and stole from me."
"But I'm your mother. You can't just-"
I thought about Grace, about the love I felt for her and the selfless decisions I'd made to be a parent to her. My mom had never shown one ounce of that toward me in my entire life.
I walked closer.
"You don't know the first thing about being a real mother."
Tears rolled down my face as I turned away and pushed the cart toward the front of the store.
"Walk back to the apartment. I'll check out and be right behind you," Jasper said as he hugged my shoulders.
"How did it go today?" I asked Edward as I changed into my pajamas.
It was the first chance we'd had all day to talk for more than five minutes.
"Do you have me on speakerphone?" he asked, laughing.
"Yes. I'm changing clothes."
I smiled and shook my head.
"So tell me how the meeting went."
He sighed. "It was the longest hour of my fucking life."
"I waited in the lobby while the counselor took Grace back to meet Rose. Then I had to go back, get her, and carry her out, because she wouldn't stop crying when the session was over."
"I'm sorry, Edward. I wish I'd been there."
"Me, too, baby."
"How'd you get her to calm down?"
"I took her out for ice cream."
"It'll get easier, right?"
"I sure fucking hope so. How was your day?"
I quickly debated telling him the whole truth about seeing mom. If I didn't and he found out from Jasper, it'd be a bigger mess to deal with.
"I saw my mom today."
"Yeah. She was at the grocery store and came up to me. I tried to ignore her, but she accused me of screwing Jasper after she saw the pregnancy tests. I told her off and then-"
"Wait. Back up," he said. "What the fuck did you just say?"
"They're both negative, Angela."
"Are you sure you read them right?" she cried out.
"Then why am I late? I'm never late. Ever."
"I don't know. Maybe you should go to the doctor."
I hugged her.
"It'll be okay."
"Are we gonna talk about it?" Edward asked the night I returned home.
"About what?" I replied and scrubbed the dirty pan harder.
I knew exactly what he meant, but I was still mad and hurt about the last conversation we'd had.
"You know what," he said. He took the sponge from my hand and tossed it into the water. "Don't play dumb."
"Oh. So I'm dumb now?"
"Jesus Christ," he replied, huffing. "That's not what I meant, and you know it."
"Do I?" I turned around and crossed my arms. I tried to hold back the tears that threatened to fall. "Would it be so bad if it happened to us?"
"Baby, no." He stepped up and pulled me close. "Just not right now."
I slid out of his grasp.
"Well, that's not how you sounded the other night."
He shook head.
"How did I sound?"
I threw my hands up in the air.
"Mad and then utterly freaking relieved."
"It was a fucking relief, Bella. The last thing we need right now is for you to get pregnant."
"And why's that, Edward? Am I not doing a good enough job helping you raise your daughter?"
I wanted to take back my last words as soon as they were out. I didn't mean them. I loved Grace as if she were my own child.
His eyes narrowed, and he looked off into the other room.
"My daughter, huh?"
I rushed over to him.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that. I swear." I took his face in my hands and forced him to look at me. "I love Grace, and I love you more than anything."
He gripped my wrists, slowly lowered my arms, and stared into my eyes.
"I love you, Bella. I don't think you realize just how much, and I want the whole package with you: marriage, babies, a house… and maybe even a fucking dog. I think about that stuff all the time, but it can't happen overnight. There's a lot of shit to get through before we get there, and I'm trying to make this transition as easy for everyone as I can. But if you can't handle it, you've gotta tell me now. If we're not on the same page, I've gotta know that, too."
My heart pounded in my chest as his words sunk in.
"I understand. Baby steps and patience."
He nodded and then wiped the tears away from under my eyes with his thumbs.
Thanks for reading.