~**All the President's Men**~

Chapter 16.

"No president who performs his duties faithfully and conscientiously can have any leisure." ~James K. Polk

The sharp sting hit Edward's bare feet as soon as he'd removed his shoes, his soles absorbing the July summer heat that had baked into the concrete, causing him to hop and skip awkwardly toward the edge of the pool. Once there, he dipped each foot in quickly to relieve the burn before stretching his arms and neck, allowing his head to roll to each side.

Diving in, Edward relished the cool rush that immediately engulfed him, his body already beginning to relax as he kicked up to the surface for a breath before slicing through the water with even strokes, beginning to lap the pool.

He'd arrived at Camp only a short while before, having given Jasper strict orders he was not to be disturbed. Edward was feeling overwhelmed, and he knew of only two places that could calm him; Bella's arms or the water.

After a short text conversation with Bella, who enthusiastically encouraged him to come, Edward had made his way from D.C. to Camp David, ignoring Jasper's attempts to remind him of the presses' suspicions, the stack of files and papers that required his attention on his desk, or the various other issues and demands that fell upon him as President.

Edward needed a break, and with his beautiful wife waiting to welcome him with open arms, there wasn't anything that could keep him from going to her.

Of course, Edward thought sulkily, it would have been nice if she'd actually been there to welcome him when he'd arrived. Instead, he'd been ordered to entertain himself for a while, as she was in the middle of something and would be done shortly.

Begrudgingly, Edward had given Bella her space, his eyes lighting on the aqua blue pool as it shimmered through the glass doors through the kitchen. It had taken him minutes to change from his slacks, shirt and tie into swim trunks and deck shoes, and then he was out the door and into the pool in record time.

Although he knew he should be worrying over the press conference he was set to give tomorrow, or the fact that Congress seemed hell-bent on blocking all the legislation Edward was trying to send through to improve the country and, by extension, keep those campaign promises he'd made, all Edward really thought of was just what his Bella was doing up in her room, and when he would be able to finally hold her in his arms again.

They'd spoken about her conversation with her Alaskan friend the night after she called, and though Edward was still wary of Bella airing her secrets out to unknown allies, he could tell instantly that Bella had been helped a great deal by the discussion. She seemed lighter, more playful and open, even over the phone as they'd talked that night, not to mention in the days following. And, Edward had to admit, he'd heard not one word breathed about the situation from anyone, not even a hint. Perhaps Bella was right, and her friend, Tanya (he thought that was her name) could be trusted after all.

Still, it stung to know Bella didn't feel ease in explaining her fears to him, needing to go to someone else for comfort and understanding. That had always been his job, and it hurt that he didn't have that place in her life anymore.

Edward dove under the water, extending his arms and kicking powerfully as he swam below the surface, propelling himself forward and enjoying the burn in his muscles as he moved. He loved the water - always had - and it was times like these that made him long for his days as a rescue diver again. He'd been in his element then, the world at his fingertips with the most beautiful woman at his side.

Edward saw her shapely legs first, the blur from the water doing little do disguise their appealing length and shape. His eyes greedily trailed upward over, taking in the way the dark-colored suit she wore hugged every curve, eliciting a moan from Edward as he rose from the water.

He lost his already-panting breath when he saw her, a shy smile tickling the corners of her mouth as she stared back at him.

The cool water was lapping against her chest, the rounded curve of her breasts glistening from the sun and water would have been enough to steal Edward's breath, but it was her hair that truly knocked him for a proverbial loop.

It was brown. Dark, luscious brown that framed her heart-shaped face, making her dark chocolate eyes seem to sparkle and glow.

"Bella?" Edward questioned, his hand raised to touch her hair before stopping short, water dripping from his long fingers back down his wrist. "Your hair…"

"Do you like it?" Bella asked nervously, her bottom lip finding rest between her teeth.

"I… I… you… you look amazing," Edward finally said, his green eyes never leaving her face, awe and astonishment shining bright. "You look like you again."

"That was kind of the point," Bella giggled, her nervousness abating now that she could tell he wasn't upset with her. "I hoped you might like it, anyway."

"Like it, Bella… I love it! You're my dark-haired beauty again. My Bella," Edward murmured, sliding closer to Bella through the water, his hands moving to her shoulders, sliding up to cup her neck as his thumbs stroked her jawline. "But you didn't need to do this, if you liked the blonde, you could've have stayed that way."

She shook her head softly. "I like it like this," Bella told him, her hands reaching up to clasp his wrists as he continued to hold her gently. "It's who I am, who I want to be. Your Bella."

"You've always been my Bella," Edward promised. "Even when you didn't know it, I did. You never left my heart and you never will."

"Edward, kiss me," Bella pleaded, her eyes filled with longing and need as she gazed up at him.

"God, I want to, Bella." Edward swallowed thickly, his tongue wetting his lips in preparation even as his mind insisted it would be moving too fast. "Are you sure? You don't think it's too soon?"

"Do you?" she questioned, her delicate hands shifting up to tangle in his hair.

"No," Edward moaned softly, his forehead coming to rest on hers as he closed his eyes. "I've wanted to kiss you from the moment I saw you again on that base in Kodiak. I've been dying for it every day since you let me hold you after watching Beth's videos, aching for it since you kissed my cheek goodbye."

"So, then, kiss me," Bella whispered her plea again.

She'd barely finished before Edward had his lips on her, soft and warm, full of all the love he felt in his heart and soul. His eyes pricked with wetness behind his closed lids as he savored the woman in his arms, her lips finally connected to his after so many years absent. His hands slid to her waist, pulling Bella closer as he wound them behind her back. He increased the pressure of his mouth, needing more than the gentle caress they were sharing.

Bella seemed to agree, her mouth opening to him as she moaned, her fingers tightening their grip in his hair as Edward slipped his tongue along her upper lip before dipping in, sliding along Bella's and massaging as he groaned at her taste.

Fucking perfect, just as she'd always been!

Edward continued to kiss Bella passionately, his hands roaming her back and arms as she allowed herself to trace the shape of his, their sounds of contentment and excitement bouncing off the water. Edward could feel Bella's body responding to him, the tight buds of her nipples pressing against his hard chest as he held her closely. He was sure she could feel the effect she had on him, his swim trunks doing nothing to hide his pleasure at having Bella in his arms again, her mouth fused with his once more.

When they finally broke apart, mouths panting and gasping for air, Edward could feel his face split into the widest grin of his life, his wife and his love safe in his arms as he sighed in relief.

The worries of Edward's mind were far away as he held Bella in his arms, her lovely features soft and happy as she rested her head against his wet chest, just under his chin. Edward rubbed her back soothingly, getting as much comfort from her in his arms as she was by being in his embrace.

"Thank you," Bella whispered, pressing light kisses to Edward's chest.

"For what?" Edward wondered.

"For allowing me back into your life. For wanting to be in mine. For taking this chance."

"Bella, sweetheart. There was never another choice for me. It's always been you."

"I know you feel that way, but there must have been time when it would have been easier to—"

"Hey, no!" Edward pulled back, his eyes sparking as he looked at her. "Bella, I would've crawled through the pits of hell just to get you back, if that's what it took. Nothing and no one could ever compare - not now, not ever. Do you understand?"

Bella nodded, her eyes welling. "You're my life now, Edward. I only want a life if it's with you."

"Then I don't see a problem, do you?" Edward smirked, leaning down to take another kiss from her lips, which Bella readily welcomed.

The two continued to splash and play in the pool, laughter and kisses exchanged between them freely as the sun moved across the sky. Bella shared more about her decision to change her hair, how she'd had to give explicit details to one of the assistants about which color to choose so Bella could do it on her own, which she did without any problem three days before. She'd been primping in her room when Edward arrived earlier that day, and she'd wanted to be perfect for the big reveal so she'd made him wait, which Edward agreed was well worth it now that he'd seen her.

He also couldn't seem to keep his hands off her, his body craving the feel of her skin and touch now that it was allowed. His fingers would brush her shoulders, wrists and, on occasion, her thighs, as they twisted and turned in the water, racing from one end to the other in silly games. Bella tried to beat him, but Edward's years as a Coast Guard rescue diver had made him nearly impossible to defeat. Of course, Bella realized she only needed to get ahead of him and her ass would do the rest of the work by distracting Edward.

Edward didn't care, hearing Bella giggle over her little victory and claiming his lips as her prize was enough for him.

If only his dick would get that memo! Edward was having a hard time controlling that portion of his anatomy, which seemed jealous that his mouth was getting so much attention when it still hadn't gotten any.

Despite his deep desire otherwise, Edward knew that wouldn't be happening. At least, not yet, though if the heat and fire in Bella's eyes was any indication, Edward knew it wouldn't be forever.

God, he hoped that day would come faster than this one had. While he was ecstatic to be able to kiss his wife and show her how he loved her, really showing her was something he craved. Edward knew he could only do that with his body, but only when she was truly ready.

Bella leaving the pool pulled Edward from his thoughts momentarily as newer, dirtier ones took over as he watched the water slide down her body, the suctioned fit of her suit accentuating every dip and line of her still-lithe body.

He had to adjust himself beneath the water before he could follow her out, laying on a deck chair and allowing the afternoon sun to dry them.

"Edward," Bella broke the easy silence that had fallen between them after a few minutes. "Can we… I.."

"What is it, sweetheart?" Edward encouraged, turning so he could see her as she spoke.

"This has been a good day, hasn't it?" When Edward nodded, Bella went on. "And, I know I've made some changes to look like the old me, but I'm still Charlotte Byrd, too, ya know?"

"I think so," Edward said, though he didn't like the taste of that truth in his mouth.

"It's just that… I think… well, as much as I want to remember our life together, it's a very real possibility that I won't. It's nobody's fault, but I think I'd like to try living each day as a new day from now on."

"What do you mean?" Edward said curiously as he sat up and faced her, a tinge of fear creeping up his spine. If Bella was going to take back her promises from earlier, he didn't know what he would do. "You didn't change your mind about me already did you?" Edward attempted to joke, though it fell flat.

"No, no. I'm not explaining this right," Bella sighed. "My words still get mixed up sometimes in my head," she explained as she too sat up and faced Edward. She reached for his hands, which he gladly gave, needing to feel connected to her.

"I just meant that while I want to learn more about our life from before I… disappeared, I would like us to try and live for today. I don't want the pressure of trying to get my memories back to kill what we've started now. Does that make sense?" Bella asked, hesitance and need in her eyes.

Edward sighed, leaning forward to place his forehead against Bella's. He brushed the dark locks from her cheek and tucked them behind her ear as he stared into her soulful, hopeful eyes. "Yes, Bella, that makes sense, and I agree. I want to build on what've started here together, too. I don't want to give up on your remembering, but I won't push it so hard either. You and Beth, both of you being happy is what's most important to me."

He sealed his words with a tender kiss, joy and love washing over him when Bella took the lead by slipping her tongue into his waiting mouth. The pair could have easily gone on, the heat and passion between them burning hot if not for the clearing of a throat nearby.

"Sorry to interrupt, Mr. President, but your time is up," the deep male voice called.