I know I'm late. Again. But if it helps at all, this is a longer chapter.
SunflowerFran rights my wrongs and keeps me from making gaffes.
August 2, 2011
"Oh for the love of God, would you put the sharpie down already."
"It's almost the end of the chapter-"
"You are allowed to catch a break every once in a while. No one could ever accuse you of shirking your responsibilities, Miss Work-A-Lot."
"I'm on the last page." I trailed off when I saw Leah's withering glare from across the desk. "Ok. Ok. Geez."
I reluctantly set my trusty red sharpie down and heaved a resigned sigh. It technically was lunchtime, and I could use a break. Leah had barged into the office five minutes before the lunch hour started and demanded that I tell her every detail of what went down Saturday night. But she wasn't satiated by the shorter, Rose and the baby were doing fine, version. She wanted to know each and every dramatic detail, down to the hair color of the attending. All of which I found extremely draining.
"Good, now, on with your story. So Emmett wasn't happy when he saw you and Edward together?" Leah took a large gulp out of her mug and smacked her lips with satisfaction before putting it back on Kate's – my desk. Still hadn't gotten used to that, even though the fact that you can actually see the mahogany desktop, when before it was buried under a mountain of manuscripts and books and files; it was a clear indication that the custody of the desk had been changed.
"No, he wasn't." I shook my head, equal parts amused and bewildered as I recalled Emmett's ridiculous outburst. "But more than that, I think he was caught off guard by Edward's presence since he hadn't had the time to put his game face on."
"What the hell?"
Edward's lips lifted from my forehead, and his arms instinctively tightened around me, as I turned around to glare at the offender.
"What is he doing here?" Emmett jerked his head in Edward's direction.
I frowned, not liking his tone at all, "He's here with me – for me, really. You've got a problem with that, Dad?"
"He's- what?" He sputtered. "Hold the fucking phone. You mean you're with Edward Masen?"
I couldn't fathom how this reaction was warranted by Edward's presence. As far as I was concerned, Emmett should be thanking Edward for all that he'd done for Rose and me. I opened my mouth to tell him just that, but Edward began before I could say a word.
"You recognize me. That's hardly a surprise." His tone was wry and his gaze calculating. "I only garner extreme reactions in people – either anger or gratitude – and the disdain in your voice suggests that, at some point in time, you were on the wrong side of a lawsuit."
"Oh, well done, Edward. You managed to bring a woman to tears by reminding her that her body was incapable of birthing a child." Emmett's tone was scathing, and I cringed at the implication of his accusatory words.
Edward barely batted a lash before responding, just as acerbically.
"That was a gender discrimination suit, and if memory serves, you were the one defending the accused. I was against it."
Emmett had nothing to say to that, so Edward continued his tirade.
"And the fact of the matter is that the woman was only promoted because she couldn't have children, and as far as your client was concerned, children make women incompetent. That woman was supposed to strengthen your case, but I played it so that she ensured my win."
I looked on slack-jawed as Edward calmly and confidently laid into Emmett without being childish about it. This wasn't a cheesy stand-off between two men fighting for the same woman. This was acourtroom, and they were opposing counsels. Their jousting match was actually quite fascinating to watch, the give and take, where they were constantly trying to one up the other. And I may be biased, but it seemed one side was completely bulldozing the other.
"If you wanted to do some good, you should've joined the Peace Corps. I'm not going to apologize for doing my job like a man. And since you still seem to be a little green around the edges, let me give you some advice: manipulating people is what great lawyers do. And we also don't sling mud on the winning party just because we lost. Although, I wouldn't know that because I don't know what losing feels like."
"You condescending son of a-"
"Enough!" And that's where I had to cut in because even though the drama was quite enjoyable, this was getting out of hand. I held my hands up in the universal stop sign. "That's enough from both of you. Now I don't know what you're trying to prove here, but from where I'm standing, neither of you look good."
"Edward, you know I love you, on an as is basis, but could you maybe try to save that patronizing tone for court."
Edward snorted, and Emmett coughed pathetically in a vain attempt to obscure his rather obvious guffaw.
"And Emmett, I can't believe this is what you chose to waste your time on instead of going to your wife the instant you got here. I get that you're scared, and trust me when I say this, Rose is going to tear you a new one. But you're standing here, getting into an infantile argument about a long-lost case, when your wife just went through the scariest few hours of her life."
Emmett hung his head, properly chastised.
"I stopped you from gagging on your foot, Em, because really, you have a lot to thank Edward for."
"Like hell I have!"
"That's not necessary, Bella."
"Did I ask for either of your commentary?" I looked between the two of them, and they both looked abashed, although I could swear I saw Edward's lips twitch.
"So, as I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted."
"I. Am. Not. Finished." I bit out, glaring at them.
"Uh, Bella. Edward and I need to get going if we don't want to be late for the trial."
I turned around to find a slightly frazzled-looking Yorkie, holding two Styrofoam cups of hospital-issue coffee.
I took my cup from Yorkie gratefully, "Yorkie, you're a lifesaver. I vow to name my first born after you."
I grabbed the closest cup, waving away Yorkie's protests, and took a hearty sip only to choke on the liquid with a sludge-like consistency.
"What the-" cough "-heck is-" cough, cough, "-this?"
"Oh, sorry. That's Edward's."
"Okay, so maybe I spoke too soon." I said when I had managed to catch my breath.
All three men snickered at me, and being the grown up, I stuck my tongue out at them.
I continued the story from where I had left off, adding a touch of commentary which was nothing more than my internal monologue spoken out loud for Leah's amusement. I may or may not have used my creative license to make the story moreinteresting for the target audience.
"Anyway, I managed to get them to shake hands if you could call it that." I laughed, remembering their dubious, hair-of-a-second handshake, "They were like two kindergarteners who were forced by their teacher, to make nice."
"Wow, sounds like Boston Legal got in bed with Jersey Shore."
I chuckled at her concise analysis. "Yeah, that pretty much sums it up."
"I'm so glad that Rose and the baby are going to be fine."
"You and me, both. Her pregnancy is still more vulnerable than a normal one, but Vic says that the hematoma is not big enough to cause any more trouble."
"Vic? That was the doctor Edward called in, right?" She furrowed her eyebrows in concentration.
"Yeah, she's a friend of his. And, oh, how could I forget," my volume turned up with the excitement of yet another dramatic incident, "When Edward called her in an emergency, he didn't bother to elaborate on the situation, so she naturally assumed the baby was his. So when she came, she mistook Rose for Edward's wife. I swear I heard crickets chirping for a while there before Edward set the record straight."
I was chuckling now, but back then my reaction could have been completely summed up by the ubiquitous expression: what the fuck. It only took me a moment to realize that Leah wasn't laughing with me. She wasn't even smiling. She set her empty mug on the desk and looked at me apprehensively.
"What?" My smile faded, and I put my own mug aside, even though it was half-full.
"She thought Rose was his wife?" She asked flatly.
"That's what I said."
"I would've understood if she had assumed Rose was his girlfriend. That would've been a plausible misunderstanding… but why wife?"
"Girlfriend. Wife. What difference does it make? Not in this context, anyway. It was a plausible misunderstanding, as you put it." I was getting a little irritated by her overly analytical self. "Why are you trying to blow this out of proportion?"
"Why are you defending this guy? You don't even know him that well." She accused, her cheeks ruddy. "You can be acquainted with people all your lives and still not know them."
"What is wrong with you?" I lost my cool. "What are you implying?"
"I think Sam's cheating on me."
"That's not- what?"
That was definitely not what I was expecting. She rested her forehead on the desk, utterly defeated. I blinked once, twice, considering what she'd given me in light of what I already knew. Sam practically worshipped the floor Leah walked on. I had seen them together. I used to wonder if it's an occupational hazard that he never took his eyes off Leah, like he never took his eyes off his charge, as a marine-turned-body guard. It was as if his world revolved around her. Better yet, it was as if she was his world. His quiet presence always complemented her chatty demeanor. I couldn't imagine him being unfaithful to Leah.
"I don't know what to say, Leah. Are you sure? I mean, have you talked to him."
"That's just it. He wouldn't even talk to me."
No surprise there.
He was so stoic, so reserved, I could count on the fingers of less than one hand the times Sam and I had an actual, two-sided conversations.
"I really hope you're just making a mountain out of a molehill. I mean, the guy just gave you a ring, Leah. He wants to marry you. That's the ultimate sign of commitment."
"God, how I wish you were right." Her voice was infused with so much hope and heartbreak.
"I'm almost certain I am, Leah. Would you please discuss your concerns with him? I'm sure he'll set your mind at ease."
"Yeah, I will. Thanks, B." She stood up in a daze and walked out of the room, leaving me alone to wonder what just happened.
Was it a big deal that Vic thought Rose to be his wife, as opposed to his girlfriend?
I shook my head vehemently, trying in vain to dispel the seed of doubt that she had planted in my mind. That's a dangerous train of thought, if there ever was one.
September 12, 2011
The sweltering heat of summer simmered down to a comfortable warmth with a slight chill in the air, marking the arrival of fall. As Vic predicted, Rose's hematoma did get smaller as her belly grew larger. Ro and Em were still working out their issues. For a while there, it had gotten ugly, but that was just because Ro was mad as hell and Em was just too much of a scaredy-cat when it came to her. You just have to give Ro the space to work it out in her head before you work it out with her.
Time has a way of blurring days together when you're busy, until nothing stands out except for the monotony of day-to-day routines. As it stands, Edward and I rarely have free time. That is not to say that we do not see each other. We absolutely do, because we have proclaimed Sundays to be strictly ours. Sometimes he took me out, wined and dined me, as I deserved—his words not mine. Other times, we just ordered take-out and sat on opposite ends of my futon working. Or at least trying to work. The moment he started running his toes along the length of my calves, I was done for. And for full disclosure, I confess to ordering Chinese too often, just so I could see him expertly maneuver his chopsticks. What can I say, it was a titillating visual.
My phone ringing roused me out of my daydreams, and so, clearing my throat, I answered in my most professional voice, "This is Bella Swan."
"Aren't you going to ask how you can help me?"
My lips involuntarily spread into a wide smile as soon as I heard Edward's voice.
"Why bother when I know you'll help yourself either way?"
He laughed. "Fair enough, Miss Swan. Fair enough. So, how are you doing this fine morning?"
"You wouldn't have to ask if you were on Facebook." I sassed.
He groaned. Edward refused to get a Facebook because he thought it was extremely immature and downright pathetic how people have resorted to social media as a way of seeking widespread social validation. That triggered a rather heated debate, where I tried to defend Facebook to the best of my argumentative capabilities, which inevitably ended with (surprise, surprise) the defense capitulating. I fought valiantly, but who was I to slay the mighty dragon.
"Are we going there again?"
"No, we're not, you big, bad, bully of a lawyer. I just couldn't resist the jab."
"Jab away, if it pleases you. Anyway, what time do you get off today?"
"Depends." I smirked, "What time doyou plan on getting off?"
"Ohho!" Edward exclaimed, "What happened to the proper little Miss Swan that answered the phone?"
"I think she's hiding under your table." I whispered, expecting the string of expletives that flew out of his mouth. The man cursed like a sailor when turned on.
"Lord, woman, you'll be the death of me, I swear." I heard him mutter something under his breath, "So, before you distract me any further, I was about to ask you out. Would you do me the honor of joining me at my place for dinner tonight?"
My eyebrows climbed to my forehead. We hardly ever got to meet on weekdays. It was like an unspoken agreement. We texted and called each other, but seeing each other was out of the question for us career-oriented people.
"Well? I'm sorry for asking at such short notice. Do you have other plans?" Apparently, I had waited too long to respond.
"No. No. I don't. All my other lovers are busy tonight." I bit my tongue lightly. I swear I had no control over it sometimes. Thankfully, Edward, used to my spontaneous responses by now, chuckled lightly, relieving me, "Of course, I'd love to join you. What's the occasion?"
"That's what I like to hear." Completely ignoring my question, "Pack an overnight bag, will you? I'll send a car around six, if that's alright with you."
"I can take a cab, you know."
"I know." And that was that.
I have lived in New York for most of my adult life, and I could take care of myself. But God forbid I travel in a cab like most people do. It reminds me of Mom's theory of how men have an intrinsic urge to be protective of their women, and that if he isn't protective enough, he doesn't care enough. Frankly, I think that's her way of maintaining her sanity because Dad is borderline smothering in his overprotectiveness.
"Alright then, see you tonight, love."
"I lo-" I altered my course, "I'll see you then. Take care."
I disconnected the phone and stared at the blank screen. It had been a few months since we'd been a couple, and since I had confessed to loving him. I said it to him on occasion, but he never said it back. He would tell me things like "you have no idea, sweetheart" or "you are my life now". To be honest, those are beautiful words that would make a girl swoon, had she not been expecting those three words. I mean the way he was with me, the way he took care of me, the way he loved me, left no room for doubt. But his reticence to say the words, to admit them to me, felt like a black hole at the back of my mind, a constant reminder that he wasn't in love with me. Not the way I was with him. I hesitated in saying it now.
It was very frustrating.
To top it all off, I had no one to talk to about this. Ro and Em had their own problems. I couldn't burden Ro at such a time with my insecurities. And as far as Leah was concerned, I would never confess something like that to her. She had undoubtedly taken a turn for the worse. She was the one who practically pushed me in Edward's direction, and now that I was with him, she could barely stomach the idea. She had gotten beyond cynical, and half the time I tried to look busier than I was just so I could avoid having to talk to her.
Maybe I should just ask him directly. I had tried being patient, but my patience had its limitations. Not to mention, I wasn't very patient to begin with.
I took a deep breath as I entered his private glass elevator.
I had been to Edward's place quite a few times now, but it always set me on edge for some reason. His penthouse condo was absolutely magnificent. It was spacious, with floor-to-ceiling windows with the most amazing view of the city and a bathroom to die for. The shower—oh, the shower. The enviable kitchen he rarely uses; the immaculate furnishing in muted colors; the sophisticated and tasteful decoration; the gorgeous California King; and my favorite, his well-stocked personal library. It was, in other words, the most opulent, bachelor pad I had ever been in. Just being here made me self-conscious, as if I didn't quite belong.
He was waiting for me by the elevator, with a beatific smile on his face, his hair wet and tousled, as if he'd just toweled it. I adored him relaxed like this, feet bare, gray slacks adorning his long legs, an untucked, crisp, sky blue shirt adorning his lean torso, a few buttons loose on top, taunting me with a patch of chest hair, and his sleeves rolled up to reveal his deliciously strong forearms.
As soon as the elevator doors parted, he proffered me a hand, which he used to tug me forward, and with the other, he relieved me of the overnight bag I was carrying. I wrapped my hands around his waist, breathing in his freshly showered, masculine scent. He nuzzled his face in the crook of my neck, placing a soft kiss, murmuring a quiet hey beautiful. We stood there for a while, just being, before something else registered. Something smelled delectable and, for once, it wasn't Edward.
"Did you cook?" I deliberately sniffed at the air over his shoulder.
I felt his lips curl against my skin, "I resent the surprise in your tone."
I pulled back to look at him sincerely, "Sorry. I just didn't know you cooked."
For everything that I did know about him, there were twenty that I didn't. And while it wouldn't have scared me before, it did now.
Damn you, Leah.
Oblivious to my internal turmoil, Edward responded, "That's because I rarely have the time, or the inclination, to do it anymore."
"And what, pray tell, gave you the inclination to do so tonight?"
"Pray tell?" He arched an amused eyebrow, a twinkle in his gray-green eyes.
"I'm working on a regency-era novel."
"That explains the interesting choice of words."
"What it does not explain is why you're avoiding answering my question." I attempted to step away from him, but he would have none of that.
"Where do you think you are going?" He caged me in his arms, my back to his chest.
"Following the scent, à la Pepé Le Pew."
"Je ne comprends pas. I'm afraid you've lost me." He sounded utterly flummoxed, and I had to giggle.
"Are you telling me you don't know Loony Tunes, Edward?" I feigned disappointment, "That just might be a deal breaker."
"Alright, time to bring out the big guns before it's too late." He muttered, and gently nudged me toward his balcony. Eager to see what he'd planned, I let him lead me, and the moment my eyes fell on the setup, I halted.
The surprisingly clear twilight sky that was a blend of spectacular colors, ranging from orange to pink to blue and indigo, provided an endless backdrop for the silhouettes of the skyscrapers that were the definition of Midtown Manhattan. It was a breathtaking image, but what truly took my breath away, was how Edward had set up a dining table in the middle of his balcony, the cutlery laid out systematically. A tall bottle, of what I could only assume was an expensive as hell wine from his cellar, stood tall in the midst. There were no decorations, no flowers or candles. It was simple. I loved simple. And I loved him.
"Happy Birthday, my Bella," he whispered against my bare shoulder, and then, tightening his hold on me, his lips lingering against my skin. The shiver that ran through my body had nothing to do with the breeze.
I turned around, my eyes glassy, but before I could say anything, he shushed me with his mouth.
"Before you start, I'm aware that your birthday is tomorrow. I'm actually going to LA for a week tomorrow. So, I-"
This time I cut off his ramblings with a searing kiss that made me warm to my core. Our tongues tangled. Our hands followed familiar routes.
This is incredibly sweet.
I can't believe you did this for me.
This is the best surprise I have ever gotten.
"Thank you." I finally said when we came up for air, punctuating it with another little peck.
"This is nothing, love. Just a meager attempt at wooing you, as you deserve," he took my hand and placed the softest kiss on my knuckles.
I shook my head, thinking, not for the first time, if this guy was for real.
"Shall we?" He offered me his arm like a gentleman.
"We shall," I wrapped my arms around it.
Edward was the waiter and the chef, and he refused any help from me. We talked about inconsequential things as we devoured our perfectly done steaks – his medium rare, mine well done. His sauce was out of this world, in a lick your plate clean kind of way, and like a true chef, he was adamant about keeping his secret ingredient to himself. That doesn't mean I didn't have fun guessing. There was something different about tonight. He seemed more … open – volunteering instead of just responding, full out laughing instead of smirking. And there was something in his depthless eyes that I had never seen before.
Afterwards, I helped him load the dishwasher, despite his vehement protests, and soon we settled on to his modern gray sectional. I sank against his shoulder, my feet tucked under me, sighing happily as I toyed with the buttons on his shirt. Edward leisurely ran his fingers through my loose waves, humming in tune to the mellow music playing on his antique record player that I'd admired the first time I'd seen it. I was surprised to see how well he had maintained the thing, but when I saw the impressive stacks of records that pretty much takes up an entire wall of his library, I was no longer astonished. The man loved music.
"You know I used to idolize my father. He wanted to rid the world of wrongdoers, one criminal at a time. He wanted to bring justice to the ones who had been wronged. He was a hero in my eyes." His fingers kept brushing steadily through my hair, but I froze, surprised that he was talking about his father at all. It wasn't a taboo subject, but I knew not to bring it up anyway; just something about the tightening of his jaw at his mere mention.
Of course, I knew how much he loved his father; you don't follow in someone's footsteps unless you admire them. And even though I knew he was a lawyer, that he was a prosecutor was news to me.
"He would tell me, son, love is your biggest strength, and your greatest weakness. He was so in love with my mother. Heck, he was in love with the idea of being in love. He was always so goddamn optimistic, looking for the brighter side of things," I felt him shake his head.
"I think there comes a time in every kid's life when they realize that heroes have chinks in their armors, too."
My hand instinctively wrapped around his bicep to comfort him.
"My father fell in love with my mother when she testified against her drug dealing ex-husband. He pursued her relentlessly until she finally gave in, and soon after, he married her, adopting my half-brother, Riley."
"I was nine when I caught her cheating with her ex-husband."
I'm pretty sure my eyes popped out of my head.
"Nothing overtly scandalous, just a pattern. Going out every Tuesday, unaccompanied, smelling sickly sweet. Then I found some letters. He had to have known, I thought. He was the one who got me hooked on mystery novels. But every night, he came home with a smile for her, and she kissed him as if nothing was wrong. He died, thinking his wife was as faithful to him as he was to her. She wrapped a blindfold around his eyes, and he didn't even realize." His words had gotten more forceful, to the point that he almost spat the last few like expletives, "Hadn't the faintest clue what she was up to, even though it was right under his nose."
He lifted off the sofa a little so he could reach into his pocket, and retrieved his wallet, only to produce a beautiful platinum ring that could only be described as Edwardian. A large, faceted diamond, with a European cut, was perched delicately on top of a finely engraved band, accented with tiny little diamonds. It was beyond exquisite – the kind of ring every woman dreams to wear one day. My pulse grew erratic at the mere sight of it. I'm not sure I was even breathing anymore.
He's not going to…
"This is the ring he proposed with; he practically had to sell his soul for this," He examined it under the dim light coming from the side lamp, and pointed out a subtle design carved inside the band, an infinity sign. "It was a sign of his commitment, his devotion. And, it was the first thing she would have gotten rid of when he died. She would've sold it like everything else, had I not hidden it from her."
Edward took my hand in his free hand and looked me in the eye for the first time in a long time. My heart was in my throat, making it harder to swallow my unshed tears, "I've done things my father wouldn't be proud of, Bella. I swore on his grave that I wouldn't be made a fool of; that I wouldn't give in to weaknesses like love. I wouldn't give a woman that kind of power on me."
"Then you came along, and you were nothing like any woman I had ever met. I read people. It's more than just a professional necessity for me. But just when I thought I had you all figured out, I saw a different side of you, and I was beyond intrigued. You just follow your instinct; do what you want to do, without an agenda. You're unpretentious, and you have this innate beauty that captivated me, and before I knew it, my life wasn't just mine anymore."
Out of nowhere, a brilliant smile flashed across his handsome face, and his eyes glittered. My own lips spread of their own accord. I blinked away the tears gathering in my eyes, because this was it. I had been desperately waiting for this moment. It was coming. I just knew it.
Edward was getting agitated, and in true form, his brows were bearing the brunt.
"But you have to understand, Bella, I've gone a long way in trying to make sure I don't let that happen to me. I was so disillusioned that I let my fear of love rule my life. I'm what my colleagues call a glorified dick, plain and simple, and you don't deserve that. You deserve so much better. And for you, I'm trying. I'm trying to retrace my steps back, undo my actions, so that I can be worthy of you. I'm not being fair to you, Bella. I want to give you so much, but shit-"
"You've been so patient, never asking, when I know you wanted to, when you had every right to." He brushed the back of his fingers along my cheek, "I want you to have this, as a token of my commitment to you. He placed the ring in my palm and closed my fingers around it, "This ring signifies that you are the first, and will be the only woman to have my heart."
He wove a hand into my hair and locked me in a gaze so intense, I couldn't have looked away had I tried. Not that I even wanted to try. Slowly, so slowly, he leaned in and with lips grazing mine, he murmured what I longed to hear, for what feels like all my life.
"I love you."
AN: So, there you go. We know a lot more about Edward now, don't we? And he loves her. What could possibly go wrong?
Thanks for reading! Now be a good sport and drop me a line!