SunflowerFran made this presentable, cause she's awesome like that.

DISCLAIMER: READ THIS!

So, this chapter is an EPOV, and the date stamps are important, so pay attention. Also, and most importantly, there's a scene in here which might be disturbing to some of the more devout E/B shippers. Please bear in mind that this is, according to some, a 'cheating fic', when you read it.

So, yeah, in short: ANGST ALERT! SCENE-YOU-MIGHT-HAVE-A-PROBLEM-WITH ALERT!


Chapter 17

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Edward POV

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September 13, 2011

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What am I doing?

Perched against the bedpost, I let my eyes trace her profile in the silvery moonlight filtering through the curtains in my bedroom, the dark tones of the covers setting off the cream of her skin. With her soft mahogany swirls decorating my pillow, her beautiful features relaxed in deep slumber, the natural pout of her lips, the graceful curve of her neck, the pearl-white glow of her shoulders and the tempting pink nipple peeking out from under the comforter, she was ethereal.

Beyond exquisite.

And somehow, she wanted me. She was mine. I couldn't wrap my head around this very foreign, yet familiar concept.

Oh, she is sneaky, this woman! She has wormed her way into my every thought until I am incapable of thinking about anything but her. With just a look, she has the uncanny ability to shatter the defenses I have spent years building. In such a short span of time, she has turned me around so completely, so irrevocably that I'm reconsidering the very fundamental principles by which I lived my whole life.

I'm breaking my own rules. I'm in love with her. I told her. For the first time ever, I told someone I loved them. The phrase in over my head comes to mind.

My head falls back as I chuckle humorlessly. "I get it now, Dad. I get it."

My Dad always waxed poetic about being in love, and after what my mother did to him, no one could blame me for becoming so jaded; so cynical. But Bella has transformed be, because as repulsive as I find clichéd romantic notions, I have to admit that this woman makes my dormant heart beat again. She makes me feel alive. She drives me absolutely crazy.

She wields the power to destroy me, but what scares me more than that is the fact that it doesn't scare me as much as it should have.

"Edward." She breathes lightly, drawing me from my thoughts. Her kiss-bruised lips curl upwards as her hand comes into contact with my thigh. She squirms closer to me and snuggles into my side, hitching her leg over mine, pressing her warm curves against me. I run my hand through her silky tresses wondering how I ever managed to find such an incredible woman. And how much it's going to kill me when she will, inevitably, leave me.

She is everything I am not – so trusting, so kind, so forgiving. But I believe even her seemingly depthless compassion has limits. And I can tell with absolute certainty that what I have done surpassed that line ages ago.

My marriage with Siobhan is over as far as I am concerned. But in the eye of the law, we are still married. And while that in itself is a monumental thorn in my side, what rankles me more is that I can't bring myself to tell Bella.

I've never associated the word coward with myself. No one ever has. I am Edward Masen.

Bold.

Ruthless.

Even reckless at times, but never a coward. Well, at least I wasn't one until this slip of a woman entered my life.

The attraction was instantaneous, as I recall. She was beautiful and innocent, and the need to protect her, to possess her, was an instinctive urge – an undeniable force field. But I wasn't going to act on it. Not until I was divorced. She deserves better, I told myself. But then, her idiot of an ex showed up, and the primal instinct reared its head again. This time, it was fueled by the primordial power of one of the most basic human emotions that I wasn't even aware I was capable of feeling – jealousy. It felt like I had no control over myself anymore, and the next thing I know, I was asking her out.

I justified it to myself by thinking it's only a date. And that I'm going to tell her.

Bella, I'm married, but I've already filed for my divorce. Dinner at eight?

But she distracted me, and I let myself be distracted. She kissed me, and I kissed her back. She pulled me towards the bed, and I offered no resistance, whatsoever. And just like that, there was no going back. In my heart of hearts, I know – I should have told her. I could have. I never wait for openings; I create them myself. I recognize, and confess to myself in the darkness of the night that I hadn't wanted to. That I was scared of the depth of feelings she evoked in me, and I was absolutely terrified of losing her if I told the truth.

Suddenly too keyed up to sit still, I get out of the bed, trying not to disturb the precious girl dreaming peacefully. A frown appears on her face as I disentangle myself from her; I smooth it out with my lips. She shifts a little and finally settles down with a sigh. I reluctantly don my discarded boxers.

What the fuck am I doing?

I'll tell her when I can tell her with absolute certainty that I'm divorced. That's how I keep assuaging the guilt. I multiplied the efforts I was putting into getting my divorce finalized. But knowing that she would never be with me if she knew the truth, torments me, and it's getting to be too much. Yes, she is with me for now, but the unbelievable bliss of that experience is inexorably marred by the secret I carry around with me. It's weighing me down – tainting my most cherished moments – and I don't think I have it in me to continue like this.

This has gone on far too long. She deserves to know.

She deserves so much more.

Unbidden, my legs carry me to the dry bar, where I pour myself two fingers of Macallan and relish in the burn it provides going down. Next, I lift the dust cover from the turntable that once belonged to my father, and putting the platter in motion, I cue the tone arm making sure the volume is low. The soulful strain of the music hits my ears before Lee Fields croons about his inability to see his beloved walk away. It's so apropos, especially when he begs her to talk it over, to reconsider. I can see myself in his shoes. I wouldn't want her to walk away either, but I don't think I even deserve the chance to explain – to talk it over.

Staring into the amber liquid in my tumbler, I resolve to come back from LA a free man. I'm going to do anything necessary to get Siobhan to sign the papers. And then, I'll tell Bella. She's going to hate me when she finds out. And she absolutely should, because how could she not?

Suddenly craving her warmth, I gravitate towards the bedroom, where she has managed to throw half the duvet onto the floor. I smile indulgently, because I've discovered that my Bella is a restless sleeper. She tosses and turns all through the night, keeping me awake, seeing as I am a light sleeper. And right now, sleeping on her stomach, her spectacular derrière on display for me, a pang of such longing hits me that it knocks my breath away.

As fast as my legs can carry me, I join her in my bed, lifting the duvet the rest of the way off. One of my hands reaches around to roll her pert little nipple, as the other journeys south to trace the perfect arc of her ass. I press my lips to the delicate place where her neck meets her shoulder, and it's not until I bite her gently, before licking at the sting that she shows signs of rousing. With my fingers against her slick, sensitive flesh, I hesitate, wondering if she's sore. She grinds against me, giving me the green light, and my lips curve against her shoulder.

"You know, Mr. Masen, I would n – ugh – never have pegged you for a necrophiliac." She grips the sheets tightly.

"I think the word you're looking for is somnophiliac." I smirk, even though she can't see me before I replace my fingers with my mouth.

I tease and touch and taste her with my mouth and the only thing better than her little noises is how my name rides on a gasp as she shatters, coming on my tongue. And when I sink into her from behind, grunting with my own pleasure, I'm so consumed with my love for her, I feel as if I could stay here forever. I think I tell her this between planting kisses into her shoulder and reaching around to cup her breast. I make love to her, languid, and slow.

Once sated, I make to move off her, but she tells me not to. She's usually so shy afterwards, she just smiles and blushes. So when she makes a request — such a bold one at that – I can hardly say no. We lie in my bed, her back to my chest, still joined together. That same Neanderthal, possessive urge rises within me, and I wrap an arm tightly around her and pull her impossibly closer. I place my lips against the moist skin right below her ear.

"I love you," I promise fervently.

Her eyes closed, she smiles beatifically, before whispering, "I know."

Her quiet assurance floors me – it makes me feel like the tallest person in the world, but also the lowest of lows. I hitch my leg over hers, holding her underneath me.

Please, don't leave me.

How do you look the one you love in the eye and tell them something that you know, without a doubt, would drive them away?

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September 19, 2011

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"Long time, stranger!"

I turn from where I was admiring the painting over the mantel to see Siobhan beaming at me as if nothing's wrong. I quickly assess her appearance – fresh makeup on her face, her black shoulder-length hair falling down in perfect little waves, a navy-blue designer cocktail dress hugging her curves, and my lips quirk up at the six inch heels my Bella would call 'death traps'. This is what Siobhan made me wait twenty minutes for. It amuses me and irritates me to no end that she thinks this will change my mind.

She extends her arms as if she's going to hug me, and I reach out to touch her shoulder, to keep her at bay. Her smile dims, but she soldiers on, her persistent nature, not letting her be thwarted.

"Well, this is a pleasant surprise!" Her head tilts a little and she licks her painted lips, deliberately placing her hands around my lapel, and steps into my personal space as her strong perfume surrounds me – her patent cues of ostensible seduction, "You know how much I love surprises."

I laugh disbelievingly, and her hazel eyes reflect hurt, and a hint of embarrassment. I don't mean to be cruel, because despite how things are between us, I genuinely like her. And I don't want this to end on a bad note, for more than the most obvious reasons – she's used to getting her way, and now that I'm not willing to bend, I don't trust her to just sit back and take it rationally. I'm wary, and I need to be careful how I handle this.

I gather her hands into mine, forming manacles around her wrists.

"I'm sorry, but were you not there during our last conversation? Did you not receive the divorce papers? The way you keep evading my lawyer is uncanny, by the way." In my attempt to mask the tetchiness in my tone, I end up sounding quite patronizing.

She pulls her hands from me forcefully and glares at me.

Good. At least now she's willing to acknowledge that everything is not sunshine and daisies.

"Edward, I told you we should take some time apart to reconsider-"

I want to tell her that the time apart hasn't grown any fondness for her in my heart, but I resist the urge. I remind myself that I came here to resolve the issue, not escalate it.

"I'm sorry it didn't work out between us, Siobhan." I tell her sincerely, "We just want different things."

"Why? Why can't you just love me like I love you, Edward? I'm not asking for much, am I?" I can see her eyes well up, and I have to look away.

I feel like the biggest asshole on the planet. I didn't know she was in love with me. I would have, had I been more attentive to her as a husband should be. But I wasn't, and I'd never promised to be.

Going into it, I had thought it was a mutually beneficial agreement. Being that she's the daughter of my father's closest friend, she's known me since childhood and has been there through the highs and lows. When she came to me with the idea of getting married, I had balked. But having known me all my life, she had approached the matter practically and not romantically. She just wanted someone she could take to company parties so that her quick rise in the ranks didn't make people question her integrity. Yes, she was the daughter of an influential man, but she'd earned her place in the company. And we were quite compatible physically, as was demonstrated quite convincingly following her closing statement. She argued that she had plenty of money and that I wouldn't have to worry about her being after mine. She made a compelling case, enumerating all the ways this would minimize the chances of anyone getting hurt.

Up until that point, the thought of marriage hadn't even crossed my mind. I'd never been in an honest-to-God relationship before, but I'd never been a lothario either – my father had made sure that respect for women was ingrained in me. But I had quite a few long-term… arrangements. The key was transparency – they knew what I wanted, I knew what they wanted. And only when both parties acquiesced did we go forward. Siobhan was aware of that, seeing as she was the longest standing arrangement I'd ever had. She was a loyal friend. She was intelligent, fiercely so, and bold, which I found incredibly attractive. Marriage was just another arrangement, slightly more permanent, and with potentially far-reaching consequences – nothing a pre-nuptial agreement couldn't handle.

I thought I'd foreseen all possible circumstances and had countermeasures in place for anything and everything that could go wrong. But I could never have predicted that she would fall in love with me – or that I would fall in love with anyone. Had I not been so cavalier about marriage – or its most important cornerstone, love, for that matter – there wouldn't have been a need for this conversation at all.

"You're not asking too much, but you knew going in that I was incapable of such emotions." I tell her softly. "You are a smart, beautiful woman, Siobhan, and you deserve someone who would worship you for who you are. That someone is just not me."

"How can you know that?" She asks cynically. "You've never been in love. It's overwhelming. All-consuming." I feel her proximity, as she stands close behind me. "You've only ever been consumed by your work. How would you know what it's like to be consumed by a person – by your lover?"

I want to tell her how wrong she is – that I do know what it's like to be so irrevocably in love – but before I can open my mouth, I hear the tell-tale sign of a zip being pulled down. I turn quickly, and am horrified to find that she's shed her dress and is now standing there in nothing but her underwear… and heels.

She drops to her knees in front of me and looks up through her eyelashes, "Let me show you."

Despite my body's contradictory reaction, I turn away and walk a few steps to create some physical distance between us.

"Siobhan, please. I don't want to embarrass you. Get dressed so that we can talk this out."

Apparently, my words don't discourage her, and the next thing I know, I'm being shoved up against the wall, and her tits are in my face.

"It's okay if you want to see other people, Edward," She rubs up against me, clearly communicating her desire. "But I only want to see you. And fuck you."

My traitorous dick twitches, and with a predatory smirk, she grabs it through my pants.

"Shit, Siobhan." And for the second time this evening, I restrain her hands. I may have applied more force than necessary, but it couldn't be helped.

Undeterred, she leans forward and takes my earlobe into her mouth, "Why are you denying yourself, Edward?" She pushes her pelvis into mine, "We both know you want it."

I turn us around and push her into the wall rather roughly, and it knocks the breath out of her, but to hell with chivalry. I need to get out of here pronto.

"Listen to me Siobhan. It's over. We're over. Just sign the goddamn papers or so help me God, I will have to employ drastic measures that I don't want to employ."

I'm almost to the door when her words stop me cold.

"So, Bella Swan, huh?"

I'm trained to not show immediate emotional responses, but for the first time in my life, I find it difficult to keep my features neutral.

She's baiting you.

Stay calm.

Do not engage.

"What about her?"

"She's pretty, if not a mousy little thing, from Nowhereville. What do you see in her?"

"She is irrelevant." I'm sorry, Bella. "And this conversation is over. See to it that you sign the papers this time. Have a good life, Siobhan."

And with that, I finally manage to get out of there, anxiety spiking my blood pressure.

How does she know about Bella? Sure, she has the means to hire a private investigator, but why do that? What does she want? Is she going to tell Bella?

I always go with my gut, and my gut says nothing good can come of this.

Suddenly desperate to make sure she's all right, I call Bella. She's happy to hear from me and regales me with little anecdotes about Kate and her work, and something about a chopping block. I let her soothing voice wash over me, and breathe a little easier.

She's fine, I tell myself as I use my keycard to unlock the door of my hotel room.

But then, she talks about some guy I sent to her office, and I know something has gone horribly wrong.

What did Siobhan do?

I didn't send any guy with any documents that needed to be signed. My brain starts calculating worst-case scenarios at a frantic pace, rattling me from the core. I'm absolutely alarmed, and when she tells me that she signed the papers right away, I lose it. I pick up a decorative vase from the table and throw it at the wall. I lash out at her, and she amazes me when she puts me in my place. She tells me to hang up if I can't calm down and I do hang up because I feel as if I've come unhinged.

I knock a few chairs over and strip everything off the fucking California King. I go to the bathroom and splash cold water onto my face because as much as I want to destroy the whole fucking room, I need to make sure everything will be okay and that Bella will be fine.

I take a deep breath and hold it in, before letting it rush out of my mouth.

Next, I call Whit.

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September 20, 2011

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Jet lag makes my muscles ache, but I persist. I want – no, I need to see Bella. I have to talk to her.

She has to know.

As soon as I see her, I'm home. But something is off because she's stiff in my arms, not melting into them, as she usually would.

Then she pushes me away, and it takes me a moment to come to, and follow her. Her face is buried in the toilet, and immediately, everything else takes a back seat. She needs to take better care of herself. Sometimes, she just works straight through lunch.

"You're married?"

Dread, cold and unforgiving, creeped up my spine.

I'm too late. She knows.

Oh, God, she knows.

It's like my worst nightmare has come to life. She's looking down at me with such hatred and disgust – I don't think I've ever felt so small, so insignificant in my entire life.

She's hysterical.

She hurls insults at me, and I take them because I deserve every one of them. Then she turns in on herself, calling herself a whore, and she doesn't deserve that, but my attempts to stop her from ridiculing herself are completely futile.

She looks at me, and the sheer amount of pain in her eyes feels like a thousand little pieces of her crystal heart stabbing every part of me. Of course, she questions whether I ever truly loved her. I catch her when she's about to fall and she cries into my shoulder. Masochist that I am, I inhale deeply, reminding myself this may be the last time I ever get to hold her. To feel her petite body curled up against me.

I don't even deserve this. I've never deserved this, and I most likely never will. My eyes prickle with unshed tears.

Her wet lashes brush my cheeks, as her palms cup my face so lovingly, my heart aches.

"Bella," I whisper reverently, and I immediately feel her loss when she lets go of me.

She tells me to go, and while she's told me that in many ways tonight, this one rings with a finality that I'm reluctant to concede. I try to protest, but she doesn't relent.

"Please don't make this more difficult than it already is Edward. Go. Just go."

And I honestly don't want to go because she sounds – and looks – so broken. It's my fault, so I should be there to pick up those metaphorical pieces. But clearly my being here is more hurtful than the alternative, so I head to the door.

"I know you don't want to hear me out right now. But just know that I meant it when I said I loved you."

I infuse as much sincerity in my tone as possible, but it is entirely possible that she doesn't believe me.

Not that I blame her.

She doesn't look at me, but I'm frantically cataloging everything about her as I slowly close the door to her apartment.

Just as the lock engages, I hear her break down once again, and I'm tempted to return, to take her into my arms, to apologize until she believes me. But I can't.

So I settle down right there, with my head against Bella's closed door – every sob of hers more painful than the previous. A lone tear falls down my face as I wonder how I managed to monumentally fuck up the most important thing in my life.

What have I done?


AN: Yes, what have you done, Edward?

Thanks for reading and reviewing and PMing and alerting, you guys! I was surprised that most of you had a problem with Emmett than Edward in the last chapter. But then, I suppose, we expected Edward to fuck up, not Emmett.

This chapter reveals a lot about Edward. Let me know what you think. Bring on the questions, comments, curses. Anything. Everything.