"I want to be with you, Edward."

Hearing those words from Bella earlier made my day ... scratch that - my whole fucking year. I hadn't felt that good in a long time.

At first, I thought maybe I'd imagined her answer. Then she pulled me back down for another slow and sensual kiss.

My little angel then decided to knock on the door.

"We'll take things slow, okay," Bella said. "I'm not going anywhere and neither are you. We just need to be careful. I don't want anything to jeopardize what you have with your daughter."

That last statement nearly brought me to my knees. Her selfless words deepened my affections toward her so much.

We spent the rest of the day playing and watching movies with Grace. We didn't cuddle as a typical couple would because I still had to be careful. Grace was aware of everything around her and old enough to repeat things. I couldn't afford for this secret to get out before the time was right.

An hour ago, I snuck into Bella's room and kissed her until she was panting and begging me to stop. If not for Grace playing in the next room, I might not have left. God knows, I didn't want to.

Tomorrow evening, we'd be alone, at least in my truck on the way home from the gym. There I could hold her hand and steal as many kisses as she'd allow.

A loud, crack of thunder caused Grace to stir and whine in her sleep next to me. I rolled over, pulling her closer to me and closed my eyes.

"This is what you really want to do with your life son?" My dad asks bitterly before taking another drink of his scotch.

"Yes, sir."

He glares at me as though he wishes I'd disappear.

"Honey, this isn't the time or place," my mom says, gently rubbing his arm.

He pulls away from her touch as though she's burned him.

"I'm sure you encouraged this decision of his, Liz. You coddle his ass too much."

My mother takes a deep breath. I can see the tears welling up in her eyes.

The bastard is spoiling her day.

"He has a right to his own path, Ed."

My dad looks at my mother likes she's lost her mind.

Then he laughs and finishes off his drink.

He stands up, fishing money from his wallet and tosses the bills on the table.

"I didn't work my way up to where I am now to have my son become some pussy-ass teacher. That's final."

When he's gone my mother rubs her temples.

"Are you okay?" I ask her.

She looks up and flashes a fake smile. Her dimples deepen.

"Yes, of course."

I can see through her facade.

Just like the unexplainable bruises I've inquired about throughout my lifetime.

Why she's with my father, I'll never understand.

For such a beautiful, intelligent, and kind woman, she's sometimes utterly idiotic.

"He's ruined your birthday again."

"Not possible," she says, squeezing my hand. "I'm here with you."

On the way out of the restaurant, I tell her that I need to use the restroom.

I can hear them arguing when I exit the building.

"Let him drive," my mother demands.

"And fuck up a fifty thousand dollar car?"

"He won't. I have a terrible headache, and you've had way too much to drink."

"Fine." He tosses the keys at me and points a finger. "You fuck up my car and it'll be your ass." He drunkenly wobbles to the passenger side of the car and gets into the backseat.

"Fuck you," I mumble when he's out of earshot.

"Edward," my mother scolds quietly.


"Don't let him get to you, baby. You're better than that. Never give up on your dreams for anyone, Edward."

I nod and get into the driver's seat.

At the first stoplight, my dad is snoring in the back and my mom is once again rubbing her temples.


The light turns green, and I hit the gas.

A sudden flash of light blinds me.

The sound of crunching metal and shattering glass surrounds me.

"Fuck!" I groaned, realizing I'd just had another nightmare for the second time in twenty-four hours.

They'd stopped when Bella arrived, but it hadn't stormed until now, either. For some reason storms and the nightmares went hand in hand for me.

I swallowed hard and took deep breaths, trying to calm my rapid pulse.

Wiping the sweat from my brow, I turned and saw the time was nearly eight in the morning.

I stretched and then headed to the shower to start my day.

"Bella, this is Carlisle - Carlisle, Bella," I introduced them once we were at the gym.

"It's a pleasure," Carlisle said shaking Bella's hand.

She smiled. "Nice to meet you, too."

"Car-Car," Gracie squealed, wiggling in my arms.

"Oh yes - can't forget to hug the little lady, too, now can I?"

Gracie nearly leapt out of my grasp into his.

"Sucker, Car-Car."

I quirked a brow, and Carlisle flashed a look of feigned innocence.

"That's supposed to be our little secret, young lady," he whisper-scolded my angel, walking with her over to his desk, opening the bottom drawer and pulling out a sucker.

"Don't you have a class to instruct, Son?" He asked, opening the packaging for Gracie.

I kissed my angel's head, but all of her attention was devoted to that fucking lollipop.

"Yeah, old-timer. And no more suckers."

Carlisle turned to Bella. "See the way he treats me after all I've done for him?" He shakes his head.

Bella stood with her hand over her mouth, doing her best not to laugh at our banter.

I rolled my eyes, gently tugging on her elbow.

"Come on, I'll show you around."

I led her through the entire facility, ending the tour at the equipment room in the back.

Despite our conversation on the way over here about lying low, I needed to kiss her. I closed the door behind us, turning the lock.

"What are you doing?" she asked as I slowly approached her.

Placing my hands on her hips, I guided her backwards until she was flush with the wall.

"I thought we needed to-"

My lips quickly cut her off.

She moaned in my mouth, and her hands twisted and gripped my hair. At least part of one of my fantasies was happening right here, right now. The rest would have to wait for a later time.

Just a taste.

I broke away, panting as I licked my lips.

"We do need to be careful, but I couldn't resist."

She smiled widely as a beautiful blush spread across her face.

"You good?" I asked.

She took a deep breath and nodded.

I stepped aside, unlocking and opening the door, quickly going back into professional mode.

Once I'd showed her where everything was located, we went back to the front.

I introduced her to a few of the fighters. Seth and Ben were polite as expected, but still looked at her with predatory glances. I suppressed a possessive growl that threatened to escape. Jake was the only one who didn't look at her as if she was his next meal, but then again he was happily married.

I turned to Bella.

"You can stay out here and observe the guys or come with me and watch."

It was entirely unfair of me because all she talked about on the way over here was how interested she was to see how everything worked behind the scenes. Yet, I wanted her to choose me.

"Oh," she replied. "Ummm ..."

I smiled, remembering that I had to be fucking cautious about this. "Hey, it's okay." I nodded toward Jake. "Just have Bella help with gloves and observe for now. I'll be done in an hour."

"Sure thing."

"Anything you'd like to tell me about you and the girl?" Carlisle asked from behind me as I replaced some boxing equipment in the back room.

"What girl?"

"Don't be a smartass, Son."

"What about her?" I asked, shoving gloves into the cabinet.

I inwardly cursed at the sound of the closed door, knowing we were about to have a long, overdue discussion. The last one had been over how I'd allowed Rose to get away with murder during our divorce.

"Edward, look at me."

I gulped, turning around to face him.

Carlisle was a father figure to me. I respected the hell out of him, but I feared what he had to say. He was a wise man, and this time I'd have no choice but to listen and carefully consider his words.

"I watched you earlier. You never took your eyes off her. Your scowl when she talked with Seth was the kicker. So ..." he briefly paused, crossing his arms, "what's going on between you two?"

Overly observant bastard.

Reading body language is key in boxing, something he'd mastered long before I knew him.

I leaned back against the metal cabinet.

"I like her ... a lot."

He raised an eyebrow in question.

"She's seventeen, Edward. Tell me you're not sleeping with her."

I sighed, shrugging.

"She'll be eighteen in a few weeks, and no I'm not."

He slowly nodded.

"And Rose? Does she know about this?"

"Hell no."

"But she will if you don't watch yourself," he warned.

"I know," I said, blowing out a breath. "It's hard to keep my feelings in check when it comes to her. She has me all kinds of fucked up inside."

He laughed.

"Does Bella know how you feel about her?"

I nodded and smiled.

"Yeah, she does."

"Then I assume you've talked to Nash about getting a particular clause removed? Because no matter how much you like this girl, a lot is on the line here."

"Already done."

"Bella is prepared to accept the consequences, too?"

I revealed what Bella had said to me last night, and what we talked about this morning. He then asked if Jasper knew, and I told him that Bella and I agreed to tell him and Alice later tonight.

He grinned widely.

"I'm proud of you, Son." He moved closer, placing his hands on my shoulders. "Sounds like you've met your match - someone to give your ass a kick start in the right direction. Just be careful. If Rose finds out before you go to court, you know what's at stake."

Time alone with my little angel.

"Yes, sir. I do."

He slowly nodded and backed away, staring intensely at me.

"Damn. You've got it bad for her, huh?" He laughed. "I'll admit, it's good to see you fighting for something you believe in again. Maybe you should consider getting back in the ring. If you're taking things slowly, then you'll have a lot of pent up frustration to release."

Sly bastard was right.

Knowing I couldn't have sex with Bella already had me on edge.

"God, that was great!" Bella squealed in the truck. "I mean, it was so cool watching them. Just the sparring was extremely intense. Those guys hit hard."

I laughed at her enthusiasm.

"It's ten times the adrenaline rush when you're actually in the ring."

"Watching Seth...," she paused and a wave of jealousy washed over me at her mentioning him. "He told me that you trained him. He's so good."

My eye twitched a bit in annoyance, but I pushed the emotion away as I pulled up to the stoplight that turned red, realizing I was the one that held onto Bella's hand, not Seth. The innocent yet intimate act of our intertwined fingers had my insides going mad.

"Hey, you. Come here," I said softly.

She smiled, leaning over the console.

Our mouths quickly melded into a deep kiss before the car behind us honked.

We both laughed, and I resumed driving.

"Did Rose say anything to you when she picked up Grace from the gym?" I asked Bella after I'd parked the truck.

Bella nodded slowly.

Rose always picked up Grace from the gym after my visits. It was easier that way. I'd leave my little angel with Carlisle and Rose would come when I was in a class. She hated the gym, and it was the perfect arrangement because she never stayed longer than necessary. It had escaped my thoughts that she and Bella might encounter one another.

"She asked me what I was doing there ... and I mean ... she wasn't mean about it, which was surprising. I told her I was working there part-time. She said okay and then left with Grace and some huge dude."

That somewhat relieved me. I hope that meant that Rose thought I had no interest in Bella.

So far, my plan seemed to be working.

"That guy was her husband, Emmett, and it's good that she was at least civil toward you."

She smiled.

"Yeah, it was a complete one-eighty from the last time."

A pang of guilt struck me as I recalled what had happened before.

"I've already got the ball rolling on my end, Bella. It won't be long, I promise."

"What do you mean?"

"You'll see soon enough," I said, kissing her knuckles. "Let's go home."

We walked side-by-side but didn't touch. The agonizing distance annoyed the shit out of me. I couldn't wait until we didn't have to hide from everyone.

I was informed by my lawyer that Rose wouldn't have a leg to stand on in court and that I shouldn't have any problems getting that clause in our divorce decree removed. However, that solely depended upon my actions. That I needed to keep my life in check until the papers were signed.

Yes, my legal counsel knew about Bella. I couldn't keep anything from Nash, especially pertaining to her. She was like a daughter to him. After I'd explained the situation and my feelings, he pretty much gave his blessing to me as long as I agreed to do things his way. He also said that his partner Irina would be handling this task. That way Rose couldn't use that to her advantage. We agreed to meet up later this week and work all the details out.

When we walked into the apartment, Bella got the surprise of her life.

She gasped and ran into Nash's arms.

Their embrace silenced both Jasper and Alice, who watched in surprise.

As for me, well, I nearly fucking cried.

As he held Bella tightly in his arms, holding her lovingly, I understood the look on Nash's face.

I had that look when I held my angel, Grace.

Okay, that was a lot in one chapter. Thank you all for reading, reviewing and rec'ng this story.

I'll be copying this over to TWCS this weekend. I will NOT be removing it from here - just covering my bases for the future ;)