This outtake was written for the Fandom for LLS compilation, and it will roughly match up to chapter 28 of No Ordinary Proposal. This will be EPOV of that time period.
Thank you, Kim, for helping make this pretty.
NOP EPOV Blue Christmas
She was so beautiful, her skin glowing and her eyes bright, I dreaded even getting into the car. I would have much rather kept her all to myself and away from the inquiring eyes I knew would be focused on us all evening.
Of course we'd been out together in the city many times, but this would be our first time together at a major function—not including our wedding reception. I had wanted Bella to ease into the transition of being my wife and tried to avoid throwing her in front of the wolves unnecessarily. She was strong enough to face anything, of course, but I also knew she wasn't completely comfortable being in the spotlight.
And that was fine with me. I could schmooze and network with the best of them, but I'd been keeping my social engagements low-key simply because I'd rather spend my time around Bella than any of these other fuckers.
I liked keeping her all to myself.
As I helped Bella into the car and scooted in beside her, I sent a smile to my mother and a nod to my father in greeting. It was odd attending a benefit together with them, but I had to admit it was also nice. It had been so long since I felt like a real part of my family.
Well, pretty much my whole life.
I put my arm around Bella's shoulders, holding her close. It was because of her that the relationship between my father and myself was on the mend at all. Not only had she come into my life and seamlessly filled a role I hadn't even realized I'd so desperately needed, but she had also managed to fix what had been broken with my parents along the way.
I wondered if she knew just how grateful I was that she was in my life.
"I love you," I whispered in her ear.
Her bright smile and hitched breath made my heart pound, even though she pushed my wandering hand away from her knee. She leaned in and whispered back, "Not in front of your parents, please."
I laughed as the car took off. She was probably right to put a brake on my antics before I got too worked up. It was inevitable, though. She knew these little dresses she wore made me crazy.
She was even cuter now with her little bump in front and her curves filling out further from the pregnancy.
I shook my head, trying to get my thoughts away from those dangerous curves. Instead, I talked a bit with my parents. Mom was chatting away about some charity thing, but her nervous undertone made it clear what was on all of our minds even if we weren't discussing it. Tonight would be the first time we'd see Eleazar—and likely Kate—since the day my father and I had confronted him and forced him to back off.
The look on Eleazar's face when I laid out that folder containing proof of every single fucked-up thing he'd ever done to us—both legal and illegal—was something I'd never forget. He knew his ass was mine, and it took every bit of strength I had not to jump up on his desk and moonwalk across it in victory.
That sniveling, arrogant coward backed off immediately, just like I should have known he would, and hadn't said a word to us since. Bella seemed uneasy about his hasty, uncontended surrender, but I tried to assure her it was finally over. Eleazar was a pretentious, self-entitled windbag, but he wasn't stupid, and he knew I could ruin him.
"Wow, there are a lot of people here."
I squeezed Bella's shoulders as she stared out the window at the crowd when we pulled up in front of the library.
"And you're more beautiful than all of them."
She snorted, but smiled. "You're biased."
Damn right I was biased, but it didn't make it any less true.
I got out of the car first, my breath making steam in the frigid air, and helped Bella to stand. The weather was calling for the first real snowfall of the season, and I was excited our first Christmas together was likely to be white.
I was becoming a major sap, but Bella's love of the holidays was rubbing off on me. My office at CWI was starting to look like a showroom with all the gifts I had piled in there. Every day I bought things for Bella and our unborn son, and I even brought in an eager intern to wrap all the presents up in sparkly paper and bows.
I knew I was going overboard, and that Bella didn't like me spending so much money on her, but I couldn't help it. This was our first Christmas together and I wanted to give her everything. I wanted to make up for all those years she had nobody around her to dote on her like she deserved.
As she stood beside me and smoothed out her dress, my fingers brushed the diamond bracelet I'd put on her wrist before we left. She smiled up at me when I lifted her hand and kissed her knuckles.
Damn, she was gorgeous. I think I fell a little more in love with her every time I saw her. Plus, her soft, creamy skin was made to wear diamonds.
"Are you ready?"
She nodded, and I kept her as close to me as I could while helping her up the stairs and inside. The flashing cameras and frosty air did nothing to diminish her smile. As soon as we had our coats checked and were through the doors, we were bombarded by greetings. We couldn't walk two steps before another hand was in my face for introductions. Half of the people I barely knew, but it didn't stop the wagging eyebrows and knowing winks sent my way for having Bella on my arm. They weren't even being subtle in their drooling over my wife.
She unsurprisingly took it all like a champ, graceful and engaging with each and every new face. I was the one ready to call it a night even before it began, so I could hide her away from all the prying eyes.
"Do you need to sit down?" I asked her.
She nodded. "Yes, my feet are getting sore in these shoes."
I laughed, pulling her closer to me and kissing her sweet skin. If it wouldn't cause even more of a scene, I would have carried her over to a chair just to have her in my arms. "Come on, beautiful, let's go find our table and get you two fed."
When I turned around to lead her to a table, I came face-to-face with somebody I was hoping I'd never have to see again.
My body went rigid as I glared at him, ready to knock his teeth down his throat. There was nobody I hated in the world more than him, not even Eleazar or Kate. All I could see was a haze of red when he leered at my Bella.
If we weren't surrounded by a crowd of people, I would have ripped every limb from his body.
"What do you want, Black?"
"Relax, Cullen. I helped you out, remember? We're all buddy-buddy again."
I put Bella behind me, getting in his face. "Don't fucking look at her."
"I was just checking on my kid."
It was everything I could do not to beat the shit out of him. I was literally shaking with the effort to hold back. It was only Bella's touch that kept me sane.
She slowly moved to stand in front of me, her fingers trying to soothe my clenched fists. I looked down into her worried eyes, remembering the last time I'd allowed Jacob to rile me up to this point.
My anger that day had almost ruined us. I took a few breaths, keeping my eyes on her, and forcing myself to think of only her and not the goading asshole.
"Ignore him," she said. "Let's go sit down. He's only trying to get under your skin."
I focused on her eyes, her face, her lips, the way she fit her hands into mine and relieved the tension. It wasn't easy to ignore Jake's laughter, but I did it with her help.
It likely would have been a disaster if she hadn't been right next to me to calm me down.
When she finally tugged on my hands, I wrapped my arms around her and relaxed as I breathed in her sweet smell. I started leading Bella away from Jake and to our table, not even acknowledging him as we passed.
It was Bella who told him to fuck off.
I loved this woman.
Thankfully, after that encounter, Jake never bothered us again. I even ended up having a good time dining with Bella and my parents. Afterward, I pulled Bella out on the dance floor and held her close to me for a few numbers.
"Have I told you how beautiful you are tonight?"
She made a little whimpering sound when my fingers moved down her back, somewhere a bit south of her waist.
Her arms tightened around my neck. "Only about a hundred times."
I laughed and nibbled on her earlobe. "Are you ready to get out of here?"
"Beyond ready." Her voice was low and husky, with an undercurrent of neediness.
I laughed a little, remembering the first time I'd heard her voice and thought she'd make a good sex operator. When I leaned away and saw her licking her lips, I was ready to throw her over my shoulder and escape. It was time to get my hands under her silver skirt.
"Fuck. Let's go home."
It took a few minutes to gather our things and my parents and make our way out the door. Every two seconds another person was getting in my way to talk about inane issues I couldn't care less about at the moment.
I was hard as a rock and Bella was horny. Why were these assholes trying to ruin my fun? After I helped her into her coat and eventually got us outside, I groaned when we were interrupted again.
I glanced over and grimaced at the waving mayor, debating in my head whether it would be too insulting to pretend I hadn't heard him. When my father started making his way over, I kissed Bella's cheek in resignation.
"It's the mayor. Give me just a second."
She nodded with an understanding smile. "It's okay. Go ahead."
"I'll take her down," Mother said. "We'll wait for you in the car. It's cold out here."
I paused, an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach. Flakes of snow were falling and it was freezing cold out here. It wouldn't be good for Bella to stand around in this weather.
But I hated letting her out of my reach.
I glanced over to my father and the mayor and then back to Bella, her cheeks rosy from the cold. I squeezed her hand and nodded. "Okay, you go stay warm in the car. I'll be right behind you."
I hurried over to shake the mayor's hand and oblige him with a bit of small talk.
"Edward!" His hand gripped mine in an enthusiastic shake. "It's been too long since we've talked."
"Yes, I've been quite busy."
He laughed. "I heard you were recently married. Congratulations."
His eyes swept from mine to my father and back again. "I think the three of us should have lunch soon. I want to discuss my plan to propose changing term limit laws and would love to have your support."
I nodded and pretended to listen while he and Dad droned on. My mind was on Bella and wishing we were back at home already.
It was the sounds of my mother's screams that broke me out of my thoughts. I spun around and rushed over to the stairs, confused at seeing my mother shaking and crying next to Kate about halfway down.
Where was Bella?
Then my eyes fell to the broken figure on the sidewalk at the bottom of the stairs. There was a familiar coat, a silver dress, the diamonds of her new bracelet sparkling in the dark night.
It was Bella.
There was a roaring in my head as I realized why my mother was screaming. Bella had fallen and was hurt. It was Bella's broken body at the bottom of the stairs.
I ran as fast as I could down the steps, shouting her name. It was like everything was in slow motion as I reached her. There was blood. So much blood. I tried to see where she was bleeding from so I could stop it, but was shoved away by my father.
I hadn't even realized there was a group of people surrounding us.
"Don't move her, Edward! She might have a spinal injury."
I felt useless, kneeling there next to her and watching as my father looked her over. I kept calling her name, hoping she would lift her head and open her eyes and tell me she was okay.
There were still screams and shouting and crying behind me, but I didn't know or care who they came from. It was like a fog descended on my world. Everything I cared about was fractured and fragmented on the cold cement in front of me.
She was my whole world, and I had failed her.
I should have been beside her, holding her arm like I was supposed to. How could I have let her go down those stairs with only my mother?
I hated myself. She had slipped and fallen because I was an idiot!
"Edward!" Someone gripped my shoulder, and I lifted my eyes from Bella's body to find my father in my face. "Come on. Move back and let them get her on a stretcher."
I hadn't even realized the flashing lights, sirens, police, and EMTs surrounding us. I shook my head, standing up and moving back so they could work.
My mother grabbed my arm, tears streaming down her face. "It was Kate. Kate did this."
Her words didn't register at first. I simply couldn't comprehend what she was saying. Then I remembered the scene I saw after her first shouts. Kate had been standing there, looking down at Bella on the sidewalk below.
It suddenly became clear what had happened.
"Kate pushed Bella down the stairs?" I asked.
She nodded, crying into her hands.
I turned around, scanning the faces around me. There was Kate, maybe twenty feet away and being handcuffed by a police officer. She stared back, her chin lifted in defiance, and then smiled at me.
An anger so intense burned through me, I could barely see straight. I charged toward her with every intention of killing her right there on the spot. Several hands were on me at once, holding me back.
"You bitch!" I yelled. "You did this!"
They moved her away, toward an open door of a police car, but she turned her head back in my direction. "I hope she dies."
She was shoved into the backseat and the door closed before I could try to lunge for her again. I wasn't sure if they were trying to protect me from her or her from me. Even as I watched the police car drive away and was held steady by several people, those four words kept echoing in my head.
I hope she dies.
I hope she dies.
I hope she dies.
I didn't understand it. I didn't understand how Kate could hurt Bella like that. If she wanted to hurt someone, she should have tried to hurt me. Bella had never done anything to her.
The scene around me was so chaotic, but I finally shook off those trying to detain me and made it over to the ambulance just as they were sliding Bella's stretcher inside.
"I'm her husband. I'm going with her."
Nobody was listening to me, they were too busy hovering over her and getting ready to take off. I jumped inside and sat down in a corner, trying to stay out of the action but wishing I could hold her hand. I briefly got a glimpse of my parents before the doors were shut, my father's face set in concern as he held my still sobbing mother.
Then the ambulance started racing through the streets. The anger I'd felt a few minutes before was fading, being replaced by worry for every second Bella lay there motionless. There was a thick brace around her neck, and one side of her face was already showing bruises along with the scrapes.
"Is she... is she going to be okay?" I asked, my voice hoarse and hesitant as I tried to speak around the huge lump in my throat.
When we pulled in front of the emergency entrance, there was already a team of doctors and nurses waiting when the doors of the ambulance were opened again. They had Bella out and on another stretcher immediately, all of them rushing her inside. I ran after them, down a few corridors and past a busy nurse's station, but was blocked before I could enter the last room with the swinging doors.
"Sir, you can't go in there."
"She's my wife."
"I understand," the nurse said, her eyes sympathetic. "We need you to wait out here."
They didn't know Bella like I did. They didn't know Bella would want me in there with her. She didn't like to be alone.
She'd made me promise her once that I'd never leave her alone.
"She needs me with her. Please."
"Sir, you need to wait right now. As soon as the doctors have assessed her injuries, we'll find you." She nodded to the two orderlies who had appeared at my side. "Can you please escort this gentleman to the waiting area?"
"This way, Sir." One of them tried to take my arm, but I yanked it away from his hold.
I stared at the nurse. "Her name is Bella Cullen. She's pregnant with our son. Are they going to be okay?"
"I promise as soon as we have any information, I will find you, Mr. Cullen."
The doors to the room swung open as a nurse ran out with something and another person ran in. The sounds of machines blaring and shouted orders were all I could hear. I couldn't even get a glimpse of Bella because her bed was surrounded by doctors and nurses rushing around.
Someone grabbed my arm again, more forcefully this time. "Mr. Cullen, this way."
They started leading me away, but I turned my head back to the nurse one last time.
"Tell her I love her."
She nodded, giving me another sad smile before entering the room.
I was escorted to the waiting area, finding my mother sobbing in a chair with my father kneeling in front of her. He stood as I approached.
"Have they told you anything?"
I shook my head. "No. Nothing."
He looked down at my hands. "You should clean yourself up."
I glanced down to see what he meant and found my hands covered with dried blood.
I had her blood on my hands, both literally and figuratively.
Even though Kate had pushed her, this was all my fault. I had brought Bella here. Brought her into my world. Left her open to attack and didn't protect her when it happened.
She was hurt because of me.
I slumped down in a chair, leaning forward and gripping my hair.
And that was how the longest few weeks of my life began.
Emmett and Alec showed up soon after, and my mother was given something to calm her down. I was given a bunch of paperwork to fill out, but I couldn't sit still long enough to even read the questions. I paced around that waiting area so many times I probably made grooves in the floor.
It seemed like forever before a doctor finally came out to talk to me, and when he did, the grim expression on his face had Emmett and Alec immediately by my side.
"Mr. Cullen?" he asked.
"Yes, I'm Edward Cullen."
He nodded. "I'm Dr. Stevens."
"How is she? I mean... how are they?" My voice broke in the middle and Emmett put a hand on my shoulder.
Dr. Stevens motioned toward a chair. "Why don't you have a seat?"
My heart pounded so hard I could hear it in my ears. He was asking me to sit down, which meant bad news was coming.
Was I going to lose my Bella?
The fear and panic I felt at that moment was more overwhelming than anything I'd ever experienced before.
I reached out toward him, wanting to grab the lapel of his jacket, but Alec held back my arm.
"Just tell me," I asked.
He sighed. "There's no way to sugarcoat this. The situation is critical right now. Your wife suffered massive head trauma. We've had to put her in a medically-induced coma to try and stop the swelling of her brain. There were further complications because of the pregnancy. She started to go into pre-term labor and we had to give her medication to stop it. She and the baby are in distress at this point and the next forty-eight hours, at the very least, will be critical."
The baby wasn't due to be born for months. It was too soon.
"What do you mean by distress?"
"I mean we're doing everything we can to save them both, but at this point it's touch and go for both of them."
My knees buckled, and Emmett and Alec each grabbed an arm to drag me to a chair. I leaned forward, trying to keep from puking up everything in my stomach. I couldn't see from the tears in my eyes and I couldn't breathe from the fear of losing everything I cared about.
I flinched away from the hand on my shoulder. "Don't touch me!"
It didn't matter who it was: my father, Emmett, Alec, or the doctor. I didn't want any comfort.
I didn't deserve any comfort.
Bella and our child were dying and it was all my fault.
The next two days were the darkest of my life. My past of being scorned by my father and Kate's abortion didn't even compare to what I felt as I sat vigil next to Bella's ICU bed. I stayed there alone, next to her at all times, with only the sound of the machines monitoring her and helping her breathe to keep me company.
Her skin was so pale, almost translucent, making the bruises along one side of her face appear darker. The doctors came and went, checking screens and marking things on charts, but very little was said to me as we all waited for either death or some sign of recovery.
My father, Emmett, and Alec all made appearances, but I wouldn't talk to them either. There was nothing to say.
In one of the long hours in the middle of the night, I resolved to follow Bella if she left me. There would be nothing left for me here if she and our baby were gone.
I held her hand and prayed, hoping God would hear me.
"Make sure to look at your dad's hands when he comes in here."
I barely gave Alec a glance as he kept talking away. How many times had I told them all to leave me alone? I didn't want anybody else in here with me and Bella.
"I'm telling you, he went over there and beat the shit out of Eleazar. Can you believe that?"
I gave him nothing. Not even a shrug.
Alec groaned and pulled up a chair next to me. "Boss, you've got to get out of this funk. It's a good sign that the baby seems healthy."
Dr. Nash had been in several times and had smiled when she told me our baby was in the clear. But how could I be happy when Bella was still in a coma and wouldn't wake up? Did they think I would be joyful just because she was now an unresponsive incubator?
Alec was quiet for a few minutes before prodding me again. "Can I at least bring some clothes for you from home?"
I ignored him and the fact I was still wearing the same shirt and tux pants a week later.
Another week went by. Another week of daily visits from my friends and family. Another week of not hearing Bella's voice or seeing her pretty eyes or kissing her lips.
But I was wearing new scrubs, at the insistence of Dr. Stevens, and I had begun speaking again.
At least to Bella.
"I love you," I told her, squeezing her hand. "Do you know how much? Have I told you how much I love you?"
I took a deep breath, holding back the tears from falling from her inevitable silence.
"I love you more than sleep. More than coffee in the morning. More than ice cream and cake. More than double-digit quarterly earnings growth. I love you more than Max loves eating my shoes. More than Hannah loves making you dinner. More than Rose loves shopping."
I squeezed her hand and nothing.
The ventilator's whooshing sound made ten new cycles.
One. Two. Three.
I sometimes counted the passing of time by the cycles.
Four. Five. Six.
I kissed the palm of her hand.
Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.
"I love you more than the sun and the moon and the stars."
Hope was something hard to get back once you lost it, and mine was slipping away. I'd been talking to Bella for a week non-stop, and there was still no response.
My voice was hoarse, my body was tired, and my heart was broken.
The doctors thought she should have woken up by now, and with each passing day she didn't, their prognosis for her ever coming out of her coma grew dimmer. As I watched her wasting away in front of my eyes, I wished I could go back in time.
I never should have made that proposal.
I was selfish, greedy, wanting her all to myself and didn't care about the consequences. If I had left her alone, had been even half a gentleman, she would be happy and healthy right now.
She was young, beautiful, strong. She had her entire future ahead of her, and I took it all away. She was in this bed—in this limbo—because of me. Because I wasn't able to stay away.
The pain of what I'd done ripped through me with a sob. And another. And more after that. I'd never cried so hard or so long. I hunched over, my shoulders heaving, and rested my forehead beside her on the bed.
"I'm sorry. So sorry for everything." I gasped for air, but it was hard to breathe. "I love you. Please, Bella. I'm so sorry."
I gently took her hand again, placing it in the middle of mine, and wished for the impossible.
And then I felt it. It was small, but more than a twinge. I lifted my head and opened my eyes.
Had she really moved? Could it really be possible? Or was it just my imagination?
"Bella? Did your fingers just move? Can you hear me?" I rubbed her hand, hanging on to the last shred of hope I had with everything inside me. "Move them again, baby. Please let me know you can hear me. Come on. You can do this."
And she did.