AN: Love to Eternally Edward's Girl and Chocaholic123 for their help. They are my safe harbour.

SM owns Twilight.


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Chapter 48

Flashes of shadow flickered across her closed eyes, waking her from a light slumber. Squinting into the watery morning light streaming through the windows, she saw a jackdaw perched on the ledge. He basked in the sunrise that changed his feathers from matte black to iridescent greys, hopping from one edge of the glass to the other. His movements blocked the rays, revealing the dust motes hanging in the air on each pass.

She remembered the story of the jackdaw who stole the feathers of other birds so he could be the prettiest one in the kingdom, but looking at him now, he was beautiful in his own way without embellishment. One of the things Bella loved when she was with Edward was the effortlessness of their time together; there was no need for facades or masks. She'd begun to feel she was a participant in a masquerade ball, where the true faces of her acquaintances were hidden beneath expectation, social hierarchy, and most disfiguring of all—greed.

None of that mattered when she was with him. She was Bella, and he was Edward. It was as simple as that.

She blinked into the room, the memories of last night flooding her with a heated blush. As she rolled over in the voluminous covers, her body ached in in the most satisfying way. The other side of the bed was empty, but she could hear movements outside the room and smell the rich and bitter tang of coffee. She sat up, pulling the covers over her chest, the beginnings of a smile tugging at her lips as she stretched her arms over her head. It was a huge stepping-stone for them; one she'd spent many hours discussing with Alice, running scenarios through her mind. It had been her desire, an inevitable need; no matter how nervous it'd made her feel.

She needn't have fretted because it had been incredible, better than she'd ever hoped after hearing other people's stories of fumbles and mishaps. Edward was obviously more experienced, but she'd not felt embarrassed or unsure. His passion, and the way his eyes saw only her, as if there was nothing else, had extinguished her worries. They were nothing more than vague memories, blurred until she couldn't remember why she'd turned them over in her mind with such concern. He made her feel exquisite. His touches were bold yet reverent, and his words had settled over her like a caress, as tender as those he made with his hands. The passionate sex had laced their feelings for one another as tightly as it'd tangled her hair.

Bella searched for something to wear, her dress likely still pooled in a pile of vibrant silk next to the piano. She spotted a black t-shirt amongst a pile of laundered clothes on an old leather chair, and hoping Edward wouldn't mind, she pulled it over her head. She tried unsuccessfully to run her fingers through her twisted curls.

She found him in the kitchen, leaning over the breakfast bar, reading the paper spread out across its surface. "Hey."

Edward spun around to see her standing bare legged, balancing one foot on the other as she pulled at the hem of his t-shirt. Her face was sleepy and her hair mussed up, and he couldn't help but smile at her. He wished he had a camera so he could capture her forever. "Morning, sleepy head."

She walked to him, and he pulled her into his side, and kissed a pillowed crease on her cheek. He wished she'd stayed in bed so he could climb back in with her, wrap around her body and breathe in her warm sleepy scent. "Have I been asleep for a while? What time is it?"

"It's still early. I went out to grab some breakfast and a paper. Why don't you go back to bed, and I'll bring you a coffee? It's not that warm out here." She shivered as she snuggled further into his chest.

When he felt her body deflate with a sigh, he knew her eyes had fallen on the black and white print—the announcement for the performance.

"It'll be over before we know it, and then we can move on from the whole thing," he reassured her, but she turned around between his outstretched legs and ran her hand across her name, smudging black ink on her fingertips.

"Can we?" Her back was to him, but he saw her shoulders droop under an invisible weight.

"What do you mean?" Edward rested his chin on her shoulder as a brush of her finger turned to a scratch of her nail, marring the lettering under her touch until her name was too distressed to read.

"There will always be something else. Another performance, another gala, another debt I owe my father and Irina."

"You don't owe them anything, Bella." Edward didn't conceal his distaste for the direction the conversation had taken. It wasn't how he'd planned their day to begin, and the mention of Irina's name threatened to erase the blue sky and replace it with thunderous clouds.

"I know, but what I think doesn't tend to matter. I have to get away from it all. I'm just not sure how to do that? Where would I go?

"You would come to me." Edward voiced the thought that had taken root in his mind and already grown to the size of an oak tree, firm and unbending.

"I wasn't saying that because I wanted you to offer to take me in, Edward." Bella backtracked quickly; she didn't want to place any expectations on him as her saviour. She had to make the first move to change the hand she'd been dealt.

"Bella, I know. I'm not offering because you just said that." He laughed at his mirrored, jumbled words, and she turned around with a tentative smile on her face.

"I'm going to get away from them, but I need to do it on my own." She pressed her fingers to his lips as he began to speak. "But, I feel a lot more confident about it now I know I have you, and you are willing to open your home to me."

"Bella, it's not just my home I want to give you. I want to see your smiles and catch your tears, as well as being the one you can lean on when you need support. I understand you want to do this on your own, but please let me be beside you. Although they don't deserve your concern or your love, he is still your father, and it won't be easy to walk away." He hoped that she would allow him that at least. From the outside she held herself together, but he felt under her strong exterior, she was a house of cards that could be toppled with the slightest gust of wind if her defences were down, and Irina was a veritable tornado.

"I just keep thinking my father will see? That one day he'll wake up from the life he seems happy to float along in. He barely exists as the man he was before we lost my mom. I want him to see what's happening; to me, to his business, and most of all I want him to see Irina for who she really is. But I'm tired of hoping. He's hiding in a bottomless glass of whiskey, happy to close his eyes and slowly drown." Her voice quietened as if her fight had already been extinguished. "I just wish I had the power to make him see."

"The only person who has that power is him. There's nothing you can do that will change your father until he decides to take responsibility for his own life. Until that happens, he will continue to hurt you, and I can't have that. I won't let you do that to yourself." Edward stood and wrapped his arms around her, feeling the surrender of her trust— the weight of her body relaxing into him, and the nod of her head against his shoulder. "We'll do this together, Bella. Now, come on, it's too cold out here."

Edward led her back into the bedroom, and as she crawled back under the downy covers, he drew off his own clothes and joined her. They lay, wrapped in each other's arms, while Bella planned how she was going to cut herself adrift from everything she'd known, with the knowledge that if she needed it, Edward would be a spark in the darkness that would help her find her way.


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AN: Thank you for reading. Have a fab weekend oxox