This here chapter is the LAST ONE. I can't believe I even got to this point. Believe me, it was no small feat. For me, anyway.
And I would NOT have gotten here with SunflowerFran, so all those who have stuck with me so far should give her a huge round of applause. This story wouldn't have come to it's end if it weren't for her nudges. She is simply the best.
Onwards, then. As always, all mistakes are mine.
Jun 6, 2012
The door to her apartment closed behind me with a thud that rang of finality. The kind of finality that my mind wanted to shy away from but couldn't. It felt like I had just shut the door on her. On us.
I gulped in air by the lungful, trying to stave off the panic that was threatening to overwhelm me. Doubt was a loud, strong voice in my head, criticizing me on how I could have handled it better. But what could I have said to such a preposterous accusation? Did I defend myself? Did I tell her how I never even thought of cheating on her – or anyone, ever? That is just not how I am wired.
I've practically become used to living with blue balls, trying not to force Bella into something she isn't ready for. Trying to do right by her. I've been honest with her about everything. About what I want from her. What I want with her. What I see in our future. Kids, for the love of god. We talked about having kids when I never before saw myself as a father. But maybe we didn't talk about it. Only I did. I spoke, she listened. Come to think of it, she never said anything. Or did she?
I scratched at my forehead, agitated.
I have a strong urge to turn back and go down on my knees. Grovel. But it would do no good when she doesn't believe a word I say. I thought we'd turned over a new leaf; that we'd started over. Turns out she is still punishing me for my past lies.
Almost instinctively, I take out my cell phone and dial.
"Yeah, Dr. Gardner. I'm sorry to disturb you so late, but do you think I can come over? I need to vent."
"Oh boy. That doesn't sound good." Dr. Gardner breathed. "Very well, come over. You know where I live?"
"Just text me the address. Thanks."
An hour later, I had spilled my heart out, reclining on the good doctor's couch, feeling like a maudlin idiot.
Dr. Gardner considered me over his large coffee mug.
"You harbor a lot of guilt, Edward, which is why I think you reacted defensively when you should have tried to diffuse the situation rationally."
I scrubbed my face roughly, "I do feel guilty for keeping my marriage from her, but I thought we were past that and everything was out in the open."
"Actually, I was referring to your guilt about never having told your dad about your mother's indiscretions."
"What the- what? No. That's not even relevant."
"Quite the contrary. And I see you rolling your eyes behind your eyelids. But it's true. I think you actually feel responsible for it. That you could've somehow put a stop to it."
"He was a blind fool for trusting her so implicitly. For not seeing what was right there in front of him." The caustic words felt like acid in my mouth, giving me no satisfaction for having uttered them.
"You think Bella shouldn't trust you?"
"What? I am nothing like that- that woman." I spat, barely controlling my growing anger.
"All I'm saying is that you should forgive your dad for putting on a blindfold and thinking everything was fine. Maybe she was really good at hiding things from him. Maybe he was really good at ignoring things he didn't want to see. Or maybe it was a bit of both."
His voice is smooth, his tenor gentle and yet I feel like smashing his huge glasses off his face.
"I still fail to see how this relates to my current situation?"
"Your guilt got you into this situation." Dr. Gardner replied evenly and I groaned, sinking lower into the couch.
Jun 11, 2012
"I like it, Robyn. It's not formulaic with the requisite love triangle. And the paranormal aspect is definitely going to be a win for the audience, right Wyatt?" I glanced at the young market analyst for confirmation.
"That's right, Bella. The sales for paranormal have gone up considerably, now that vampires have become fashionable once again. In fact, it's not just popular among the teenagers. Adult women seem to be digging it, too."
I smiled perfunctorily, "Perfect." Then turning to Robyn, an editor for the paranormal genre, I said, "It just needs a lot of cleaning up, from what I can tell from this excerpt."
Robyn nodded along, taking notes as I spoke. "The author is a little too fond of tingling and fluttering."
She scrunched her nose making all of us laugh.
"Yes, well, the less tingling the better."
They excused themselves and left me alone to stew in the confines of my office.
I had been trying to put off thinking about what went down a la Scarlett O'Hara, but tomorrow had to come sooner or later.
To say that I was a little shocked by the turn of events was an understatement. I didn't know what to think about the fact that he didn't mention going with a woman. A personal assistant, granted, but still, a woman. Why couldn't he just have told me? And then, when I confronted him, he threw a bitch fit and left saying something like 'you know where to find me' as he stormed out the door.
I was not going to be the one to find him.
I sniffed indignantly.
A knock on my door jarred me from my musings.
"Bella, I tried to tell him that you were-" Kelly spoke breathlessly, but before she was finished, a man was rushing into my office, looking, for all intents and purposes, like a raging bull.
"It's all right." I attempted to curve my lips – which probably looked more like a grimace – in some semblance of a smile to ease the rigid stance of my personal assistant. "Jasper. This is definitely unexpected."
"Quite possibly unwelcome and most certainly unpleasant." Jasper tacked on, his blue eyes stormy.
My brows furrowed.
"Come on in, then. Let's get this over with." I gestured for him to take a seat across from me and turned to Kelly, mouthing a thank you.
She gave me a worried glance before stepping out of the office.
I returned to Jasper, who was busy scowling at me.
"What can I do for you?" I asked wearily.
"Listen, I know very well that this is none of my business and that I should not insinuate myself in what doesn't concern me. But the problem is, that it does."
"Well, I'm glad to be spared the effort of telling you to stay out of this since you obviously know that you should."
His lip turned up before he gave up the glare and sighed heavily.
"Bella, I like you. I really do. And I think you are good for him. But I don't like that you're playing games." I must have looked ready to pop because he held up a hand. "Let me finish, please."
I bit my tongue barely suppressing my rage. How dare he?
"That man doesn't have a vulnerable bone in his body, except when it comes to his father, or, as I'm coming to realize, you." He shook his head. "I'd been on his case since the moment I found out that he hadn't been forthright with you. Me and Alice, both. But no one castigates him more than he does himself. He's got it in his head that he doesn't deserve you and whenever it gets rough between you two, he convinces himself that maybe it's for the best. That maybe you shouldn't be with him anyway. But you know what I think?"
He sneered, looking down at me, which made me bristle, "If you can't appreciate what you have with him then you are the undeserving one. Especially after what he wrote on Facebook."
"All right, that's enough. Not another word from you about something you have no idea about. You may think-" I stopped mid-rant, as his words registered, "Wait, what do you mean he wrote on Facebook? He doesn't even have an account. He hates Facebook."
"And yet, for you, he created an account, publicly apologized and declared his love for you in the most romantic way any guy could ever do in the twenty-first century – Alice's words, not mine – and you didn't even dignify that with a response? If you don't want him, then just tell him so he can move on. I didn't think you were the type to yank a guy around."
I stopped listening to him somewhere around 'he created an account' and promptly used my phone to log into Facebook after having boycotted the damned social media for the last few days.
I had loads of notifications. Alice Brandon was now friends with Edward Masen. Edward Masen wanted to be my friend. I scrolled through my feed and found what I was looking for: Alice and sixty-two others liked Edward Masen's post. There are forty-five comments, but I only have eyes for this post. I clicked to expand and began reading.
"This is the story of a very foolish man – for a fool is he who deigns to think himself wise. Until quite recently, he operated under the assumption that he knew everything. But in his defense, his notion was backed by many. He thought he knew everything about how the world operated and he flattered himself something fierce by thinking he knew what made people tick.
Then he met her, and suddenly, he wasn't so sure of himself. She was like no one he'd ever met. Beautiful as can be and a heart made of gold. He couldn't help it, he was a goner for her since the moment he stalked into his office full of purpose, trying to help a man who certainly didn't deserve it. But he made a grave error in judgement. He kept something big from her and when she found out, nothing was the same. He had lost the most precious thing in the world – her love, her trust. At first, he left her alone. He felt she deserved better than him. But then, he saw her again and he couldn't figure out how he had stayed away so long. He went after her again, and they formed a tentative relationship, where he walked on egg shells and she was wary – both waiting for him to fuck up again. And like a self-fulfilling prophecy, he did. Instead of explaining and calmly resolving the misunderstanding, he was defensive and said things he probably shouldn't have said.
He's too set in his ways to change. He is an asshole and everyone who has ever interacted with him can attest to that. He is sorry to have caused her all this pain and he will try to do better because she deserves better. Better from him and maybe even better than him. But he has decided he doesn't believe in the latter anymore and wants to work on the former.
Fuck anonymization. Bella, I love you. And I'm sorry. Please know that I never intended to hurt you and I will always try to be honest with you. I cannot say I will never lie, but I promise that I will never lie about anything important. I cannot say that I will not fuck up again, but I promise to always grovel and apologize profusely, throwing in a few gifts for good measure. I cannot say that I will not storm out in a fit of temper, but I promise that I will always come back to you.
Please, have faith that I am the same Edward you used to love, trying to be more straightforward this time around. The same Edward who hates social media and all it entails. And yet, I have created this account against my better judgement for the sole purpose of advertising my relationship with you. So have faith in me, Bella. Have faith in us. This cannot work unless you do.
I feel ridiculous; like a teenager with a crush, so in keeping with that:
Will you be mine, Bella Swan?
3.I'll think about it
No is not an acceptable option."
"I take it you hadn't seen his post before."
I shook my head, speechless and teary-eyed. He loved me. Since he was friends with Alice, it was a sure thing that all of his colleagues had read this. This man, who liked to keep his private life away from his professional one had just declared his love for me online, for all to see.
I think one of the reasons I had been holding back was that while he was a huge part of my world, I wasn't a part of his. But with this post, he's just inextricably linked himself to me. He's laid it all on the line. He's practically set his pride aside to do this.
I feel like I should say something, but words confound me. "I didn't know."
"I figured." Jasper's voice was kind. I looked up to meet his eyes and saw sympathy there mingled with a hint of amusement. "You're both idiots, you know that?"
I scoffed and the mirth in his eyes reached his mouth, "You both are hell-bent on making your lives complicated and miserable. I was like that myself before I met Alice. Even for a time afterwards. I thought I should stay away. She's too young. She's my employee. She's too goddamn perky at five in the morning."
We both smiled at that.
"There are always too many reasons why you shouldn't be with someone. In the end, it boils down to what you really want and whether or not you're willing to work for it. I'm older and infinitely wiser than you all. I'm practically Yoda, so you better listen to me."
I snorted, a smile tugging at the corner of my lips.
"Older, definitely. Wiser, you are not."
He burst into laughter as he stood.
"My work here is done. Now if you could just keep this meeting between the two of us that would be great."
"Jasper," I rose, too, suddenly full of purpose.
"Do you think you could give me a ride to your office?"
"I knew I liked you for a reason."
I felt a sense of déjà vu as I entered the reception area. Of course, this time was different, with Jasper beside me. Still, I felt weird, and fervently hoped this time would go better than the last time I was here. The first time I met Edward when he was pretty much an arrogant asshole. He was still arrogant, and quite possibly still an asshole. But he was my arrogant asshole.
Wait, that didn't sound right.
Banishing the thought from my head, I walked along and realized that unlike the last time, a lot of people were staring at me. Some grinning, some astonished. There was definitely a buzz about the place, and I had the distinct feeling I was the topic of conversation.
Sensing my discomfort, Jasper leaned down and said into my ear, "You'll have to excuse them. You're kind of a celebrity with how you have –uh—flapped the unflappable Edward Masen. They either love you for making him beg or they hate your guts for how he's been acting for the past few days."
I grinned, "He's giving them a hard time?"
"More than usual. He's practically been living here for the last couple of days and he's wanted the associates at his beck and call."
Then I felt a small body colliding with mine, and if it hadn't been for Jasper's hand supporting me, I may have toppled over.
"Oh, thank God you're here, Bella. He's been a wreck. And absolutely cantankerous. Although, don't tell him I said that."
"Easy, Alice." Jasper chided lightly.
"Sure, Alice. Where is he?"
"He's in Conference Room C for the Milner deposition. But you go on ahead to his office. It will be a nice surprise. Maybe we should clear the floor, you know, so they can make up."
I blushed and Jasper laughed. "No, no. I mean, God, Alice. It's his workplace for crying out loud. And there are so many windows."
"You know," Alice said slyly, "that doesn't exactly sound like a no."
If it was possible, my cheeks burned hotter, but mercifully, as Alice escorted me to Edward's office and left me there without further innuendo. .
His office had a familiar scent. His scent. I breathed in deeply a few times, before wandering off to his extensive library. It was exactly like the first time I'd seen it. The law journals. The books ordered by their publishing year, and their titles.
I ran my finger along a book's spine and took it out. I was just reading the summary on the jacket when I heard him enter. I turned on my heel, suddenly anxious. He was dapper as ever in one of his immaculate suits. He looked at me for a few beats, rooted to the spot before his gaze dropped to the book in my hands and a ghost of a smile appeared on his lips.
"I see you've made yourself at home."
It was a variation of what he'd said to me the first time he found me in his office, skimming through one of his books. It was similar, but not the same. We were not the same, either. We had changed and so should our relationship.
Suddenly, it hit me, what Edward had been trying to tell me all along but I just couldn't see it: we cannot just pick up where we left off. We had to start over. It may be the same characters, but it's a new story. We can't rewrite the story, but we can definitely create a new one. Different plot, different ending.
Move on. Turn the page.
I took a deep breath and felt the doubts that had been crowding my thoughts release their hold.
Cocking my head challengingly, I played along, "Are you telling me I shouldn't have?"
Seemingly encouraged, Edward stepped closer to me until the only thing between us was the book in my hands and the hesitation in his eyes.
"It's yours if you want." Then leaning closer his lips touching my ears as he vowed, "I'm yours if you want."
My fingers traveled the familiar path from his forearms to his biceps, over his shoulders and finally, tangling with the hair at the nape of his neck.
"I'd say I'll think about it," I said, referring to the options he'd given me. "But I've already made up my mind."
His hands, hovering uncertainly till now landed on the small of my back.
"I'd say maybe, but that suggests indecision, and I've had enough of that to last a few lifetimes."
He buried his face in the crook of my neck and I felt his lips skim my collarbone, making my insides turn to liquid.
"So, I guess that leaves us with, oh, what was it?" I feigned confusion.
"Don't tease, Isabella."
Hypocrite that he was, his hand curved over my ass before stopping tantalizingly close to the apex of my thighs.
"Yes." Elated, I laughed, pulling him closer. "God, yes."
We were both smiling when our lips touched.
Thanks to all my readers who have stuck with me since the very beginning. You know who you are. And thanks to everyone for dropping me encouraging lines, and even for bashing the story - I'm all for constructive criticism.
I had a different vision for this story when I started, but it just took a life of it's own. I realize I'm not much of a writer, but I had a lot of fun with this. I hope, at the very least, it was a fun read for you guys.
~Nat a.k.a NeedMyFix
P.S. I'll see about an epilogue, but I make no promises.