Thanks to SusanQ, Nicffwhisperer, Vampshavelaws, iambeagle, and Stephanie for all of their help pre-reading/betaing for me. I have so much love for these ladies. I tinker with my docs until right before posting, and any errors you see are mine.
I couldn't believe Alice plowed into Jasper like that, knocking them both off balance, but it was the aftermath which was truly interesting. They were both blushing, stammering, and stuttering apologies as they tried to untangle themselves and get back up off the floor.
It was clear by the way their eyes darted around to the rest of us but continued to go back to each other that there was some sort of attraction there, and it brought my grandfather's words to the front of my mind.
Was it just coincidence, or was it fate that he had described this exact situation? And what did it mean for the rest of his letter?
In that moment, watching this crazy scene unfold in front of me, my mind went to my father of all places. Despite everything from earlier in the day—and over the last few months—I wondered more than ever if my grandfather was right. Watching Alice and Jasper fumbling around each other, some tiny part of my heart or my head was telling me I would one day forgive my father and that deep down he really may be the good man my grandfather had believed him to be.
"Did that really just happen?" Edward whispered in my ear when Alice finally brushed herself off and disappeared toward the bathroom.
I giggled and nodded, watching Jasper's gaze stuck on Alice's retreating form before he shuffled over to take a seat next to Rose.
"Esme, Carlisle, Emmett," Rose said, getting everyone's attention. "This is my brother, Jasper."
By the time introductions were done, Alice was walking back in. I smothered another laugh when Jasper's eyes followed her every move as she sat down next to Esme.
"Hey!" Emmett snapped his fingers. "Eyes off my sister."
Alice's head whipped in his direction with a scathing glare. "Shut up, Emmett!" Her scowl quickly turned into a smile when she glanced at Jasper again.
Edward chuckled once and shook his head. "Okay, enough of this. You guys can play goo-goo eyes later. We have some things to figure out."
His body tensed next to mine and I bit back a sigh. I wished we could just forget all the problems and have peace for one night, but he was right. There were things which needed to be taken care of immediately.
"What exactly happened at your parents' house?" Rose asked me.
This time I did sigh aloud. I hated having to tell Rose and Jasper about my mother's threats, but I also knew it was better to be prepared. They deserved to know what they may face in the future.
"We might be in for a fight," I told her, glancing between her and Jasper. "I'm hoping I got the message across that there would be retribution if she tried, but Mother threatened to retract our gifts from Grandfather."
I went on to tell them about her hiring a lawyer and mentioning something about my father's power of attorney over the estate. Both of their faces were a mixture of sadness and anger. When neither of them said a word, I wrung my hands nervously in my lap and laid out an alternative.
"You don't have to worry about anything, though. I promise. Even if she did manage to figure out some loophole and take away what he gave us, I'll sell this place and split the money between you two."
Both of their heads snapped up at that, their eyes boring into mine.
"Don't you dare say something like that!" Rose said, her voice full of anger.
It didn't matter to me, though. I liked the condo, but it was more important to me that they were taken care of and I knew my grandfather would feel the same way.
"I don't care about the money," Jasper said, patting Rose's leg to calm her down. "Rose doesn't either. I care more about what's right. About honoring Marcus' wishes and not letting that bitch... uh, sorry... your mother get away with this."
I'd still sell the condo first thing if either of them lost anything because of me. It didn't matter what they said right now.
"I think she was just bluffing. I doubt after I threatened her back she'll actually go through with anything. I'm only telling you so you'll be prepared."
"You really threatened her back?" Rose asked, a bit of pride breaking through her anger.
Emmett slapped his knee. "You should have heard her! It was awesome. She laid into her mom. It was vicious." His words made me cringe even though he said them with a grin. "I didn't know she had it in her, but it's the quiet ones you have to look out for. It's hard to get them mad, but once you do... boom." He elbowed Edward in the side. "You better remember that when you fuck up in the future."
Rose and Jasper turned from Emmett to me.
"I... uh... just said I'd hire lawyers myself and told her if she didn't back off, I'd talk and ruin her and the campaign."
Their mouths fell open a little, and it took a minute before Rose stood, walked over, and hugged me.
"You doing that for us means more than any dollar amount."
I squeezed her back, hoping she knew I would always choose her before anyone blood-related to me. She was my family, not them.
"This is just my opinion," Esme broke in as Rose sat back down. "But I think you should do it. Don't stop at words. You should hire some lawyers, because you need someone—or a few someones—to get ahold of that will and make sure your interests and your grandfather's wishes are being seen to."
"She's right," Rose said, looking at me. "Remember at the dinner we went to when he gave us our graduation presents?"
"He said he wanted us to do some good. Use our skills and talents for charitable causes. Now that I think back on it, maybe he was telling us in his own way that he wanted us to continue on with a few of his projects along with our own."
"Yeah, I think you may be right," I said softly, thinking over her words.
Perhaps he was trying to give us a hint that he wouldn't be around much longer.
"Not only that, but he was very clear about his wanting to fund any projects we took up for charities or developing foundations."
They were all right. It wasn't something I had even thought about until now. Having this brought up made me want to see exactly how it was spelled out in the will, and if it differed from what grandfather's intentions had been months ago. My father was an attorney, and I had simply assumed whatever grandfather specified to be meted out would be done honestly.
Now I wasn't sure. I no longer trusted my father as I once had. He was going to have to earn back my trust if he ever wanted it again.
Edward linked his fingers with mine. "If you want, we can use my firm, or I can talk to Paul and see if he has any suggestions for the best firm here."
"I think I'd rather use a firm on the east coast." I bit my lip, my nerves all jumbled. "It needs to be quiet, though. Behind the scenes. I don't want even a hint of any of this hitting the press."
My biggest leverage against my mother was the ability of airing out our dirty laundry in public. I wanted complete secrecy until I had a valid reason to submarine her or my father. The very thought of doing something so drastic made me ill.
But I would do it if I absolutely had to.
"Speaking of keeping things quiet, I've been thinking of something," Jasper said. "I've already talked with Rose, but I had an idea I wanted to bring up with you, Bella." He seemed a little nervous, and Jasper never got nervous.
"What is it?" I asked.
"Well, the press has laid off you and your parents the last few days because of Marcus' passing, but that's going to end quickly. They're going to be all over you now since that engagement ring picture is out there. I imagine they'll be camped outside wherever you and Edward are at all times and get in your face at every opportunity." He paused, smoothing out his pants. "The thing is... I don't want to be here anymore. I pretty much hate this city. I was thinking maybe you could tell that Rodney dude to take a hike, since your father hired him anyway, and I could take his place."
I wasn't sure what to say. Jasper's reluctance about remaining in New York made my heart hurt, solely due to the reasons behind it, but I hated the idea of him being some kind of employee.
"You have money to do whatever you want to do, though," I said. "You're like my brother and I wouldn't want to cramp your style or anything."
He shook his head. "I can't just relax on a beach or sit around twiddling my thumbs. I'd go nuts. I need to be doing something and this seems like a good fit. If that Rodney douche could do it, I know I can. I can kill people with my bare hands." He held his hands up with a grin, making everyone laugh. "Plus you know me, so it won't be all awkward and shit like it is with a stranger."
I turned toward Edward and he shrugged.
"It sounds like a good idea to me," he said. "He's right about the press. They'll be all over us and I definitely want someone with you at all times." He rubbed my stomach. "Especially now. In fact, maybe it would be best for Em and Jasper both to be on your detail."
I snorted because it sounded so ridiculous in my head. As if I was someone important. I hadn't heard that phrase since it was mentioned in one of the meetings with my father's team of advisors in reference to future secret service protection.
I didn't even want to think about that at the moment and pushed it to the back of my mind.
Edward clutched my hand. "I'm taking it seriously even if you aren't. You haven't been hounded too much yet, but it will happen. Believe me."
I nodded mostly to appease him, even if I thought they were all being paranoid.
"Okay," I told Jasper.
I caught Alice beaming and squirming around out of the corner of my eye. I imagined this turn of events sounded great to her.
"I want to come, too," Rose said. "After all this, I don't think I want to be here any longer. Especially if you both are gone. California is sounding better all the time."
This made Emmett's smile widen.
"So, we're all heading west?" I asked.
"Yep," Rose said with a nod.
"Yeah," Jasper agreed.
The idea of Rose and Jasper together with me as I began this new phase of my life made me happier than ever. Yet the most jubilant face in the room was Esme's.
"Mom looks like she just won the lottery," Emmett said.
She shrugged, her unapologetic smile widening as she leaned into Carlisle. "I kind of feel like we did. We just gained three more kids."
I think I loved her even more.
California, here we come.
The next day was spent packing boxes and having them shipped to Edward's house before we took our flights west. It would be a couple of weeks before we were officially in L.A., and most of our things were going to arrive before we would.
We still had business to take care of in Vancouver.
Rose and Jasper both decided to join Edward and me during this time while he finished filming. Alice and Emmett went back to California with their parents, but were planning to join the four of us in a few days.
Edward and Jasper had been correct about the paparazzi. They had somehow gotten wind of our flight out of New York and were all over us when we landed in Vancouver. Jane had a car and Edward's guard, Demetri, waiting for us when we exited the terminal, but it was a sea of cameras and lights flashing as airport security helped make a path through the mass of bodies.
"Fuck!" Edward whisper-shouted when we saw the chaos outside the glass doors.
I wasn't sure how they knew we'd be arriving now, but they did. I swallowed a few times, uneasy about the looming crowd we were going to have to wade through.
"Jasper, you take the front," Demetri said, taking charge. "Security should clear some of the way, but just force a path through. Rosalie and Bella will follow and then Edward. I'll be right behind. All of you go as fast as you can and get into the car."
It was then Jasper got his first taste as a "bodyguard" by leading the way and keeping me and Rose sandwiched between him and Edward. Edward was plastered to my backside, one of his arms around my waist and the other trying to keep people out of my face. Rose reached back and I held on to her arm, keeping my head down as much as possible.
The paps were loud, and there was a lot of pushing and shoving, but we got to the car pretty quickly.
"Damn! That was insane!" Rose said once we were all in and had taken off.
"It was a lot of cameras," I agreed. "I didn't know so many paps were even in Vancouver."
Edward shook his head, hugging me to him. "That wasn't all paps. I bet most of those were fans. Too many to be just the vultures."
"How'd they even know we were going to be there?" Jasper asked.
"I'm guessing someone on our flight tweeted it or something and then word spread." Edward brushed my hair back, leaving a trail of kisses along my jaw. "You still want to marry me?"
I turned my face and caught his lips with mine. "Yes. An army of tween fangirls and some flashing cameras aren't going to scare me away. You're stuck with me now."
His lips curved into a smile and I relaxed in his arms for the rest of the drive while we listened to Demetri handing out pointers to Jasper.
The next few days were spent skyping with Rose, Alice and Esme while Edward was at the studio. They were helping me plan my very small, but beautiful wedding which Edward had given me free rein over. At my consent, Esme had hired a wedding consultant to help us coordinate things quickly. We settled on a ceremony at a private resort in Santa Monica which would be held in less than three weeks. It was all happening so fast, but it helped that pesky details like printing formal invitations and adjusting guest lists weren't applicable.
Nobody outside of the Cullens and Whitlocks was going to be invited.
I debated over and over in my head whether I wanted to tell my father, but finally decided it was simply too soon. I wasn't ready to see him if he accepted, and I wasn't ready to hear his refusal if he didn't. He hadn't bothered to call me in the days since the funeral, and I wasn't going to call him first.
He was the one who needed to make the next move, even if it saddened me to have nobody to give me away at my wedding. Instead of focusing on my hurt feelings, I tried to channel them into making it a special experience for Edward and those closest to us.
Once the location was secure, the biggest obstacle left for me was to find a dress. Alice was helping me out on that front, sending me hundreds of different options over texts so that I could whittle it down to a few and pick one once we arrived back in L.A.
Other than wedding planning, Rose and Jasper went out a few times to explore the Vancouver area, but I stayed in our suite. Not only was the hotel surrounded by paps, but I was also experiencing some awful morning sickness.
And afternoon sickness.
And evening sickness.
It was hit and miss, but when it hit, it was awful.
"We need to get you to a doctor," Edward said three days later, finding me sitting on the cool tile of the bathroom floor when he was done with shooting.
Sometimes it was just easier to stay there in between puking sessions.
"How are we going to do that with the cameras lurking out there?"
"We're going to have to sneak out."
He pulled me up, explaining the plan he and his siblings had dreamed up while I brushed my teeth and washed my face. I would have laughed at the ridiculous levels of nonsense we had to go through just to see an obstetrician, but it would be worse for us if this news did get out.
Well, worse for me.
And really, that was all Edward seemed to care about. He waved away my claim it could damage his image, saying he didn't give a shit. All he cared about was my image, much to the chagrin of his publicity team I was sure.
If it leaked that I was pregnant before marriage, it would literally kill my father in the primaries. Horrific images of Caius in a hooded cloak hunting me down with a scythe kept running through my head.
Alice and Emmett arrived the next morning, and our plan was set in motion.
"Okay, I'm taking off just like I would any other morning, so half of them will follow me to the set," Edward said, giving me a goodbye kiss.
When his face suddenly changed from smiling to terror-stricken, I glanced over to where he was pointing to find Alice waving something long, brown, and hairy in the air.
"What the fuck is that?" Edward yelled. "Is that a squirrel? Did you bring a fucking squirrel into our room?"
Emmett and Jasper doubled over in laughter.
"It's a wig, you moron!" Alice said, shaking her head. "I can't exactly double as Bella with my short hair." She walked over to me, holding up the wig to compare to my hair. "Perfect."
"Oh," Edward muttered. "It still scary-as-fuck looking. You know I don't do wildlife."
Emmett was still laughing so hard he had tears streaming down his face. He kept trying to say something, but it didn't come out right. In the meantime, Alice pulled out another wig—this one blonde—for me to put on.
"Can't I just wear a hat?" I asked, grimacing at the monstrosity Alice was trying to fit on my head.
"We'll put hats on, too, but this is more thorough."
She pushed me into a chair, pulling and tugging to get it on straight.
I glanced at Edward. "What's the deal with you and wildlife?"
He shuddered a little, before Emmett chimed in.
"Edward's like the bizarro Dr. Dolittle or something. Ever since he was a little kid." Emmett almost lost it again, but managed to keep his composure and spit more out. "He thinks he has some curse on him because he ran over Mom's cat with his tricycle when he was three."
Alice rolled her eyes, and I chuckled at Edward, who was glaring at his brother.
"Bizarro Dr. Dolittle?" I asked, wanting more information.
Emmett slapped Edward's shoulder. "This guy was famous in Forks before he hit it big in Hollywood because if there were ever reports of wild animals around, the police always looked at Edward first. He was somehow always in the thick of it."
"The fuckers chase me! It's not my fault!"
Emmett busted out in more laughter, and I bit my lip and stroked Edward's hand. Poor guy.
"What kinds of animals?" I asked.
"Every kind," Alice said. "You name it, he's been chased by it."
"Bears, dogs, goats, raccoons, turkeys, horses..." Emmett broke off, choking down a chuckle. "Alice, remember that time the goose tried to land on his head?"
Alice giggled and backed away a little to check over my wig. "Yes, that was classic. Dad's got a great picture of that honker flapping its wings and Edward screaming and running for his life."
Edward fumed while the rest of us laughed at the mental image.
"Yeah, yeah. Laugh it up. It's all fun and games until one of those assholes gives me rabies or something."
I stood up and wrapped my arms around his waist, tilting my head to kiss his pouting lips. "I'll keep all the wild animals away, including your fans."
He laughed and squeezed me back. He couldn't help it if all species were attracted to him.
"Okay, I'm really leaving this time," he said. "You and Jasper are going to meet me there." He sighed and hugged me tighter. "This is just to check and make sure everything's all right. When we get back to L.A., we'll get you in to see the best baby doctor in the city."
"Quit worrying." I smoothed out the frown lines on his forehead. "Everything will be fine."
We had been consulting with Carlisle about who to see and where. He'd asked around and gotten us an appointment up here—at a smaller hospital on the outskirts of the city—with someone highly recommended, but he was also hooking something up in L.A. for when we returned.
"I just want you to have the best."
He could be so sweet when he wanted to be.
After another minute or two of goodbyes, he and Demetri left followed ten minutes later by Emmett, Rose, and Alice disguised as me. They were off for some shopping, hoping to lure the remaining paps into following them.
Jasper and I fiddled around for another fifteen minutes before we got the all clear text.
"Let's go," he said.
I straightened my wig and hat one last time, rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror. Jasper and I got downstairs and into a waiting car quickly and without any fanfare. Both of us scanned our surroundings as we drove off, but didn't see anybody following us.
Our plan seemed to have worked so far.
We drove about an hour away, pulling into a smaller medical clinic and hurrying inside. Edward was waiting there, his hat sitting low on his head as he hunched over in a seat in the corner. He popped up as soon as he saw us, walking over to give me a kiss and take my hand.
"They're going to get us right in," he said.
I nodded and followed him, Jasper taking a seat to wait while I was checked out.
"Did Simon have any issues with you doing this today?" I asked.
"No, he's cool. I only have one shot today and it should only take an hour or two when I go back."
It was great his director was flexible and willing to work with Edward's requests.
A bubbly nurse greeted us and took us back, referring to us as Mr. and Mrs. Simpson. I didn't know how Edward was pulling off this act, but figured it likely involved a large amount of cash. I wasn't going to ask a lot of questions.
I went through being weighed, my blood pressure taken, blood drawn and changed into a gown. She inquired about a lot of my history, mostly revolving around any medications, the date of my last period, and my birth control methods. Edward fidgeted nervously, sitting down next to me once I was settled on the exam table and holding my hand. Finally, a doctor walked in, smiling at us both.
"Mr. and Mrs. Simpson, it's nice to meet you." He shook our hands and looked down at his chart. "So, you're only in town for a visit?"
"Yes," Edward said. "We're leaving in a couple of weeks, but Sarah hasn't been feeling well and we wanted to see someone as soon as possible."
It was weird hearing him call me Sarah, especially when it rolled off his tongue so easily. He was definitely gifted at playing the part. I was afraid I was going to blurt out something to give us away, so I kept my mouth shut.
"First off, the pregnancy test was positive," he glanced up, finding our smiles. "Congratulations." He put his chart down and moved to my other side, using his stethoscope to listen to my heart. "You've been experiencing a lot of nausea?"
"Yes," I said with a nod.
"From your symptoms and the length of time since your last regular menstruation, I'm relatively certain you're somewhere between six and nine weeks along. I'd like to go ahead and do a pelvic exam and an ultrasound now, so we can give you a closer estimate as to the age of the fetus, but this procedure will likely be repeated at your first visit to your primary obstetrician."
Edward and I both nodded. I squeezed his hand when the doctor started poking around at my lady parts. Thankfully, he wasn't down there too long before he hooked up the sonogram machine and squirted some cold gel on my stomach.
"Here's the heartbeat," he said, pointing out the baby on screen for us. "And it looks like you're about nine weeks along."
I couldn't believe it. I was over two months pregnant already.
I was happy and anxious at the same time. We were pregnant and the doctor said everything looked normal, but by the time Edward and I were actually married, I was going to be at the end of my first trimester.
There would be no doubt of my being pregnant before marriage now. There was no fudging of a three month window.
I tried to block out the harsh words I knew were coming from my mother if and when she found out about this. Trash. Slut. Loose. Whore. They kept whirling in my mind even though I tried to concentrate on the doctor's words and the giddy expression on Edward's face.
It was so difficult to suppress a lifetime of her influence on my thinking and behavior.
The doctor ended the ultrasound and left us alone, giving me time to get dressed before he came back. I shimmied back into my clothes, trying to avoid disrupting my fake hair.
"What's wrong?" Edward asked when I sat back down. "You don't seem very happy."
I hated myself for putting the worried frown on his face. Damn my mother!
"I'm fine. I promise." I squeezed his hand and gave him my best smile.
He didn't seem to believe me, but the doctor returned before the interrogation could continue. He handed us a few photos of our baby.
"You're at around nine weeks, just as I thought," he said, handing me a packet of information and boxes of pills. "There is plenty of information you can read through now, so that you'll be ready with any questions and concerns once you see your OB at home. Also, I'm giving you some prenatal vitamins to start taking. As for your morning sickness, I want you to avoid any other medications if possible and there are plenty of tips here for you." He pointed out a specific sheet of paper. "What you've been going through is completely normal, however if it gets any worse, come back and see me. Just try to rest, keep drinking as many fluids as possible, and eat a few crackers when you first wake up. Those really seem to help, along with several small meals throughout the day instead of two or three large ones."
We thanked the doctor profusely after he was finished with all of his explanations, and Edward took care of the payment before we joined Jasper back out in the lobby.
"Are you really okay?" Edward asked me again as we were walking out.
I squeezed his hand. "Yes. It's just a lot to take in. I'm happy, though."
I was going to play the role of happy mother-and-wife-to-be as if my life depended on it, because I would be damned if my mother was going to ruin it for both of us. I didn't want to tarnish any of this experience for Edward, even if it might take me a while to get my mind completely right. In the meantime, I was going to fake it until I made it.
"Do you want to come to the set with me or go back to the hotel?"
"I..." My voice broke off when I glanced across the parking lot.
I could have sworn I saw Alec driving away. That was impossible, though. No way would he or could he be here right now. My parents were in D.C. at the moment, and Alec was supposed to be with them.
I shook my head and turned back to Edward. "If you're only going to be an hour or two, I'll just go back to the hotel. I want to get this silly wig off my head and take a shower."
He hugged me and kissed my temple. "Okay. Take a nap, too. Paul's flying in as we speak. He and Jane will be coming by for our meeting tonight."
Ah, yes. The big meeting where they learn not only are they taking care of Edward's career, but now I was included in the mix.
It was all part of the Edward Cullen Take Charge program.
They were just going to love the crazy surrounding me and the baggage of dealing with The Senator's team of assholes.
"You still want to marry me?"
I grinned and chuckled at him, staring up at his smirking face.
"Yeah, I guess I do."
AN: Do you like bodyguard Jasper? Will Bella end up having anyone to give her away? Does she even need it?
Anybody else want to see Edward being chased by a goose? ;)
Thank you all so much for reading, reviewing, and letting me know your thoughts. I read and enjoy every single one.
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Troika by Mortissues
Never Said I Didn't by purelyamuse
California Dreamin' by chocaholic123
Hooked Up and Locked Down by LayAtHomeMom