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.
His head whipped around toward me, his eyes worried. "Code Black."
My heart jumped up into my throat as I tried to figure out how and for what possible reason he could be standing outside my hotel room. Jasper stared at me, raising his eyebrow, but I didn't know what to do.
Why was he here?
Why hadn't he tried to call me first?
Who else did he have with him?
I didn't feel like I was ready to face him yet, but maybe coming all the way here was his way of extending an olive branch. I couldn't tell him to go away and leave me alone before I knew what he wanted. The scared girl inside me who feared his power wished Edward was here by my side, but the newly-independent woman inside me knew I shouldn't need to have my hand held all the time.
Besides, at least Jasper was here.
"Isabella? Are you going to let me in? I know you're here. I heard your voice."
Jasper held out his hands, silently asking me what I wanted him to do. I sighed and motioned toward the door for him to open it, although I moved to stand closer to him while he did.
A few seconds later, my father strode in, followed by Alec and two other large men in black suits. He was in full Senator mode, looking awe-inspiring and important, much different from the weak and broken man he'd been the last time I saw him. I was beyond thankful for Jasper, because I would have felt even more intimidated by these four men if I was alone. A brief worry that they might be here to steal me away and lock me up tight—far from Edward—flashed through my head, but I pushed it away. Not even my father was that evil.
My mother maybe, but not my father.
Jasper must have had the same thought, because as soon as he closed the door, he moved to stand slightly in front of me, holding his arm out like a shield. I grabbed onto it just for support. Father stood there watching the two of us, curiosity in his expression.
"Hello, Isabella," he said.
There was an awkward silence before he cleared his throat. "Can we talk?"
I turned and led the way into the living room area. Alice flipped off the movie and stood up when she saw the group of us walk in. I made my way over to her, grabbing her hand and pulled her down to sit next to me. Jasper sat on my other side on the couch and my father took a seat in a chair close by. His goons stood in a row behind him.
He glanced between the three of us before his gaze landed solely on me. "Can we talk privately?"
I tried not to fidget under his stare. "Whatever you can say in front of them," I said, nodding toward Alec and the two other guys, "you can say in front of my friends."
He grimaced and then smiled, leaning forward and holding his hand out toward Alice. "I don't believe we've been formally introduced. I'm Senator Swan, Isabella's father."
She reached out and shook his hand. "Alice Cullen, Edward's sister."
He nodded like he already knew that, and I had no doubt he did. Alice had been there after Grandfather's funeral, but they hadn't interacted much. However, he probably had files on everyone in Edward's family.
Background checks, credit reports, dental records, spy satellite images, probably even DNA profiles. Nothing would surprise me anymore.
"Why are you here?" I asked after another awkward silence had descended.
"Can't I visit my own daughter?"
I scrunched my nose. "You never have before."
He sighed and clasped his hands together. "Despite any past transgressions, you're still my daughter. I was hoping we could work things out between us."
Was it possible he was really here to fix our relationship? As much as I wanted to believe that—to believe he loved me—I was still leery. Why right now?
"Your past transgressions or mine?"
His eyes darted from me to Alice to Jasper and then back to me. He was probably worried about me blurting out details of his philandering and threats.
I waved my hand. "They know everything already."
"They do?" Now he sounded a little scared.
"Yes, but nobody outside of the Cullens, Rosalie, and Jasper do. Is that why you're here? To make sure we all stay quiet?"
He shook his head. "No, I'm here to see you. To see how you're doing."
"I'm absolutely fine. I have Edward, my friends, the Cullens. We'll be settled in L.A. in a couple of days. I'm getting married. I'm happy."
He leaned forward. "Is there something else you aren't telling me?"
My heart pounded from his question. Thank goodness Alice was gripping my hand because I had an uncontrollable urge to rub my stomach, not only to calm myself down, but to protect my baby from his probing questions.
I didn't know how, but he knew.
Had the information leaked somehow from Paul or Jane? I didn't want to believe that, but they were the only people we'd told outside of our circle. Then I remembered the incognito visit Edward and I had made to the doctor.
My eyes fell on Alec. "It was you. You were there."
He had seen us after the OB visit and told my father. His nod of confirmation and small smile didn't lessen the betrayal I felt.
I glared back at him before turning my angry gaze on my father. "I can't believe you! For a second there, you had me fooled. I thought maybe you really were here because you cared about me and wanted to be in my life. But it's still all about you. Your campaign. The only reason you're here is to protect yourself."
He shook his head. "You're wrong. Yes, I had Alec watching you, but it was for your protection. I'm here for you."
I didn't believe him at all.
"It's true," Alec said. "I know you don't trust me, and this will probably mean nothing, but the whole time I've been on your side here. Yes, I've followed you and reported things back, but it was only to prevent others from hurting you. Congressman Ryan—Peter Ryan—has his people digging for anything they can find right now, and you are a target. I've been able to sidetrack them a bit, but he's already started his mud slinging in front of a few small groups. As the primaries get closer, it will only get worse. That's why I'm here."
Congressman Ryan? I knew he was predicted to be my father's most dangerous opponent. While my father's platform was based more on fiscal conservatism, Ryan was much more outspoken on social conservatism. He definitely sounded like an evangelist when he preached and ranted from his podiums on the decline of traditional values in this country.
I looked at my father again, still angry and now scared by what this all meant. "Why isn't he digging into your past? You're the one who broke your marriage vows."
He rubbed his eyes before meeting my gaze. "He is, but he won't find anything. My tracks are covered. I'm sorry for the mistakes I made. I wish your mother hadn't told you like that. It was something that never should have been put on your shoulders."
"I think she enjoys hurting me."
He sighed, but didn't disagree. "She won't be hurting you anymore."
I snorted. "Yeah, right."
"She won't." He reclined back in his chair. "I threatened to leave her—to quit the campaign entirely—if she didn't back off of you. She may not be the best mother, but she won't bother you anymore. I think she wants the White House even more than I do."
I was floored. It took me a minute or two to even form words. "You really did that? You would have given up the campaign... for me?"
That single word shook my very foundation. I wanted so much to believe him, but it was hard to forget a lifetime of feeling as if I was simply a footnote in his world. For him to claim now that I was the most important part was difficult to swallow.
Nevertheless... oh how I wanted to believe it.
I didn't know whether it was his overwhelming confession or my hormones running amok, but I started crying. Alice wrapped her arms around me and I let her pull me close. It was so much to take in, and I feared giving him the benefit of the doubt. If I trusted his intentions, it might hurt me more if I found out eventually he was lying about this.
Everyone was quiet, and I had just started to calm down, when all hell broke loose. A door closed and I heard stomping footsteps before the shouting began.
"What the fuck are you doing here?" Edward stood in the middle of the room, his face red as he glared at everyone. He glanced over at me, taking in my tear-streaked face and then lunged at my father. "You cocksucking prick!"
Alec moved between them, grabbing Edward's arms and pinning them behind his back. Emmett and Demetri, who'd walked in with Edward, went after Alec, but were blocked by Father's two other goons. I started sobbing again at the sight of Edward so upset and the shouting curses between all the men.
It was complete chaos as they all wrestled with each other. When I tried to stand up and go to Edward, Jasper held me back.
"Stay here. Don't get in the middle."
I couldn't speak because I was crying too hard. I kept trying to gulp down air and relax, but I couldn't. Alice rubbed my back a little more and then huffed. She jumped up and screamed at the top of her lungs.
It was like putting a movie on pause, because all of them quit fighting and yelling immediately. They all looked at Alice, the only sounds in the room their heavy breathing and my gasps for air.
"Would you morons get yourselves together and back off of each other? Edward, calm the hell down. The rest of you, chill out. In case you haven't noticed, we have a pregnant woman here who's losing her shit."
Alec let go of Edward's arms and Edward pushed him away before rushing over and scooping me up.
"It's okay, baby," he said softly in my ear, sitting me on his lap.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and nodded, concentrating on the rise and fall of his chest.
"So you are pregnant," my father said.
Edward's body tensed around me. "Leave her alone. You've caused enough problems. Get out!"
I tried to tell him it was okay, but Alice beat me to it.
"Edward, calm down. He was here to apologize to Bella."
I didn't recall a specific apology, but she portrayed the gist of it.
Edward squeezed me tighter. "He made her cry."
"She was mostly fine before you guys started your WWE showdown."
He nuzzled my face, kissing my cheek. "Do you want him to leave?" he asked in a whisper.
I shook my head. "It's fine. I'm all right."
And I was. I listened to the conversation around me as my father, Alec, and Alice told Edward what had happened before he arrived, but I mostly enjoyed the feeling of being in his arms.
There was no safer place in the world in my opinion.
"So you came here to be a daddy again?" Edward asked after they were finished, not sounding as impressed as I had been. "Why should she let you in her life anymore? Just because you supposedly made some meaningless threat to your wife which you never would have seen through anyway? You think that shit deserves a fucking prize? Why didn't you speak up before? All those times your wife made Bella cry and feel like shit? Bella's better than me for even letting you in this room. I would have told you to shove it all up your ass and dropkicked you back to D.C."
Edward certainly had no qualms about voicing his opinion.
Everyone was quiet, including my father. I think it was probably the first time he'd ever been spoken to this way.
"I... I've made mistakes."
I'd never heard my father stutter with his words. It sounded like he was sincere and that this was difficult for him.
"Yeah, you did," Edward said. "A whole fuckload of them. And Bella doesn't need your protection any longer. She has me."
Father sighed. "I can see that."
I lifted my head from Edward's shoulder and glanced over at my father. He looked tired. Sad. Old. It seemed he'd aged a decade in the last few months, and I wondered if it was the campaign or our messed up family which caused more strain. He was good at hiding problems under his blanket of vitality and energy while he spoke at functions and rallied support in front of huge crowds, but here in private, in this room, he appeared worn down. Older than his years.
I felt bad for him.
He met my eyes and sent me a sad smile. "I am sorry."
I nodded. "Thank you."
"I hope you can forgive me."
I hesitated, wishing it could be as easy as that. "I think I just need a little time."
He bowed his head and cleared his throat. "No matter what, I apologize ahead of time for anything said or written about your pregnancy. There's really nothing I—"
"I already know," I said. "We realize what's likely to happen."
"Yes, okay." He stood and paused in front of me. "I would really like... I mean, if you don't mind... I'd like to be at your wedding."
More tears fell from my eyes, and I bit my lip. The hope in my heart was making me vulnerable. I knew I was opening myself up only to maybe get crushed again, but I couldn't help it.
I wanted him there.
I nodded up at him. "I'd like that."
He smiled his first real smile since he arrived. "Thank you. I'll get out of your hair now and call you soon."
I wiped away my tears and watched him leave followed by his men. Maybe my grandfather had known what he was talking about all along.
Edward rubbed my back and brushed some hair from my face. I leaned in and kissed his pouty lips, appreciating him more than I could say. He never let me doubt he would always put my interests first.
"By the way," he muttered when I pulled away. "I could have totally kicked Alec's ass if I'd really wanted to."
I laughed and threw my arms around his neck, feeling lighter than I had in a very long time.
AN: Is Charlie deserving of Bella's forgiveness? Is he being truthful with her?
Anybody want to place bets on who would win in a real Edward vs. Alec battle? lol
Next up: back to Cali, wedding, etc. Also, Renee re-enters the picture.
It was funny seeing the guesses on what Code Black meant. I know it's been awhile since any of the colors were used, but if you start back in Chapter 2 they played out like this: Code Blue was Alec, Code Pink was James, Code Red was Renee, and now Code Black was Charlie.
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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Also, there are a few contests going on that I'm involved with. You should check out all the entries already posted! Find me on facebook or twitter if you have any questions!
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