Disclaimer: The original characters and plot of the Twilight Saga are the property of Stephanie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended. The storyline of A Family like Ours is mine.
**WARNING: THIS STORY CONTAINS EXPLICIT SEX/BDSM SCENES, LANGUAGE – STRICTLY NC-17!
A FAMILY LIKE OURS: A SEQUEL TO PEOPLE LIKE US
Bella was tired when she got back to Kate and Garrett's home and after Kate applied cream into her back, Bella fell asleep quickly, but her night was full of disturbing dreams.
When she woke, far too early to disturb anyone, Bella checked her back, bottom and thighs. There were a few small bruises from where the knots of the cat had struck her, and a couple of fading streaks. Bella sighed as she pulled on one of Edward's button downs that she liked to use instead of a robe when he wasn't home and used the small adjoining bathroom.
She had given herself permission to take the day off from exercising, but she was craving a run, so she dressed quickly, scribbled a note which she left next to the coffee machine and let herself quietly out of the house.
After she had stretched, Bella began to run along the quiet street towards the forest. It was one of the things that she missed about living in Sausalito. The smell of the sea air and the redwood forests that surrounded the area was unique to the Bay area and Bella missed it and the breathtaking views.
With a deep breath Bella began to run down the Alta Trail. She turned left at the fork in the pathway and ran along Morning Sun Trail because she knew that it was more populated at that time of the morning and she was acutely aware of how vulnerable she was.
As she ran she thought about what she was going to say to Edward. He had called the previous night just as she was climbing into bed and had surprised her by saying that he had finished early and rather than wait, he had flown home.
They were meeting up at Garrett and Kate's house that morning. Bella had told Edward that she had a session with Paul that morning and her mouth had popped open when he had told her that he too had an appointment. There was a tense silence before he had asked her quietly to sit in on part of his session.
Although he had quickly assured her that nothing was wrong, Bella had tossed and turned for a couple of hours as she worried about what was going on.
Bella couldn't get that damn photograph out of her mind either! She kept wondering why someone had sent that picture to her. The pictures seemed to be taken on the street, by a passerby, or paparazzi photographer. It wasn't as if Edward was kissing Whitney or even touching her in any way, but that the girl was enamored with Edward was obvious.
Bella snorted, but then again, most people fell under his charismatic spell, regardless of age, race, religion or sex. Bella was used to the looks of jealously, envy and spite that she often received when she was with him.
Especially as Edward seldom paid attention to anything or anyone else when they were out together.
That thought made Bella stumble and she slowed down to a walk as she caught her breath and wondered if she had been wrong. How come she hadn't thought of that before? Edward rarely looked at anyone whenever he and Bella were together. He tended to focus on her entirely, making sure that she was comfortable, happy, and content. Checking that she ate something had a drink or whatever she wanted.
Yes, there was no doubt that Edward had 'run away' over the past few months, but then again, how forthcoming had she been? Had she been open and honest with him when he had asked her how she was feeling? Or had she made excuse after excuse to find 'busy work' just like he had?
Bella sat down on a boulder on the side of the pathway as people ran, walked and jogged past her. A kind looking elderly man and his wife stopped and asked Bella if she was okay and she assured them that she was fine and she showed them that she had her cell phone.
Was it possible that time, work and their day-to-day lives had become a great excuse to stop talking about what was going on? Had she not promised Edward all those years ago in the hospital when he had been shot that she would never let him run from her again?
Bella knew that the blush on her cheeks was not from running but from shame.
All these months, I've been blaming Edward, but I'm just as much to blame as he is! He ran away but so did I!
"This stops now. I'm not running again and neither is he." She said to herself with determination.
After almost finishing the water in her bottle Bella stood up and turned towards the way that she had come and walked head first into a solid body.
"Oh my gosh! I'm so…" Bella looked up as she quickly stepped back from the firm chest beneath her hands and gasped, "Edward!"
Even with his aviator glasses and his black cap that was twisted backwards, Edward's scruffy face was exquisitely beautiful and after a split second Bella launched herself into his arms with a squeal that made her sound more like their ten year old daughters.
Edward held her tightly against his body and he shut his eyes and inhaled a deep breath in the curve of her neck.
"Hey Baby Girl," he murmured as he slowly pulled back and lowered Bella to the ground.
Edward pushed his sunglasses to the top of his head as they shared a smile.
Brown eyes stared deeply into dark green eyes and when they found all that they needed to know there, Edward brought his lips down in a heart stopping kiss.
Unmindful of the traffic on the pathway, the couple clung to each other as their kiss deepened.
Each was anxious to convey their message silently.
I love you.
I never stopped loving you.
I want you.
I will always want you.
You are my world.
My world revolves around you.
Passion gently turned into tenderness, until little nibbles became chaste pecks in the corner of the mouth, which morphed into a nose skimming down the curve of her cheek as Bella let out a long, happy sigh.
"Perfect." She whispered.
"Breathtaking." Edward replied.
The sound of shocked laughter broke their bubble and they stepped to one side as a younger couple jogged passed them.
"… I'm telling you, Rodney that is Edward and Bella Cullen!"
"Baby, that's ridiculous! You are so obsessed with that couple that you see them in the forest…"
Bella wiped her face on her towel and flipped it over her shoulder.
It was quiet all around them and she could hear the sound of her own breathing.
Suddenly she felt shy and nervous.
"Would you take a walk with me?" Edward asked, almost shyly.
"I'd love to." Bella gushed and then she felt her cheeks get hot as she looked up at him from under her lashes.
She rolled her eyes at herself as her heart skipped a beat when Edward gently took her hand in his.
"How did you find me?" Bella asked as they took one of the less frequented paths.
"I had no doubt that you would run in the forest this morning. I'm sorry that I'm a little early but I couldn't wait to see you any longer." He said and his hand tightened in hers.
They walked in silence for a while as they swung their hands lightly. Every now and again Edward would raise their clasped hands to his mouth and he would kiss her knuckles. Bella loved the feeling of his large hand clasped around her small one. It made her feel so secure and safe.
Bella bit her lip to stop herself from grinning like an idiot but Edward noticed.
Bella giggled – actually giggled and shook her head. "You are going to think that I'm nuts." She said.
Edward grinned, so happy to hear her light hearted laughter, "Baby, I know that you are nuts. It's one of the reasons that I love you."
Bella stopped walking so suddenly that she almost pulled Edward off his feet.
Her eyes searched his face, "I love you too Edward. You have to know that I love you." She urged. All trace of their banter from a moment before was gone. Her eyes searched his as she silently begged for his understanding.
"I know that you love me, Bella. I know that we have been at odds for a while, but I want to change that. I miss you so much."
Bella's fingers clutched Edward's hand as if she was afraid that he would disappear.
"I miss you," her gaze faltered and she bid herself to be strong, "I miss us."
Edward nodded. The walked silently for a moment before Edward found the old bench where he and Bella often used to sit and talk.
Bella's heart was pounding as Edward sat down and gently tugged on her hand to pull her into his lap as they always did.
The kids often laughed as they teased them about saving space. This time there was no laughter.
Bella resisted the urge to wrap herself against his body and she took her hand away with a pleading look in her eyes.
"Wait, Baby, I need – shit, I need to tell you something and y-you are going to be mad," she said quickly.
Edward wanted to tell her that he knew everything but he also knew that she needed to tell him this and so he just sat back in the seat and nodded.
"Go ahead, Sweetheart, I'm listening."
Bella took a few steps away from him as she tried to calm herself down.
Stop it! She told herself silently, just grow a pair and tell him!
Bella took a deep breath and wiped her sweaty hands on her cotton shorts before she turned around.
"Edward, I love you so much, it hurts sometimes. I know that when I was pregnant with Max that things were not easy – I was a mess! And afterwards, well, you were there. You practically had to keep the house running by yourself. You took care of the kids as well as the baby when I couldn't and then I got sick and you just kept on being the caregiver."
Bella dashed the tears off her cheeks, "I will never be able to thank you for taking care of us, all of us. You are so protective. You are a wonderful husband and father…" Bella bit her lip as she forced herself to hold his gaze steadily.
"…but as a Dominant – my Dominant – you have done a shitty job." Her voice faltered until it was just a whisper.
Bella flinched as if she was waiting for him to spring up and attack her but after a moment of silence she dared to look at his face and what she saw shocked her.
His eyes glistened with unshed tears of sorrow and remorse as he leaned forward with his arms on his knees.
Edward's gaze didn't waver, "Go on, baby girl, and tell me everything, I'm listening."
His words and the sincerity in his eyes gave Bella the last push that she needed, and so Bella began at the beginning.
"At first, after Max and then the hysterectomy, I was scared. I was still tender and that night in the playroom, I just panicked and that's why I safe worded. It wasn't that I didn't trust you, I was just nervous. After that I was hurt when you refused to do a scene with me. You just kept making excuses and obviously I blamed myself for that."
"I didn't know." Edward muttered.
"I know that! You didn't know because you refused to talk to me. You refused to talk about our D/s lifestyle at all!" Anger flashed in her eyes.
"Then you just stopped completely and that's when we began to drift apart. I didn't have the strength to fight you. You are my Master and it's your job to guide me, to lead me, but you didn't – you just left me hanging. Yes, you were taking care of me, Edward, you always do, but it was different. It was almost as if you were afraid that I was going to break or something. You have tiptoed around me for over a year and I have allowed it."
Bella's expression softened when she saw the spark of hurt that Edward tried to hide.
"Please don't get me wrong, I love how you love me. I love the way that just holding your hand makes me safe."
Bella bit her lip, here goes. "But so does being your submissive. That is a part of who I am Edward and I just cannot ignore that part of myself any longer."
She took a deep breath, "So, this is where you may get mad at me…"
Bella went on to tell Edward everything. How she had tried to ignore her needs until she had gone to see Paul out of desperation. She told him about her 'training' and how she had learned to satisfy her needs to a degree and how she went to Breaking Dawn every fortnight. She told him about Garrett and Kate had become her mentors and teachers and how Kate gave her the aftercare that she needed. Bella ended with her sessions with Paul that coincided with her bi-monthly visits to the club.
Edward had not said a word from the time that Bella had begun and when she was finished Bella stood wringing her hands as she hopped from one foot to the other.
Finally she couldn't stand it any longer, "Please just say something. Tell me that I've finally crossed the line, tell me that you don't want me, tell me anything, but please speak…"
Her tirade was cut off abruptly as Edward fell to his knees in front of her.
"I'm so fucking sorry Bella, I'm so very sorry." Edward said as he wrapped his arms around her waist and buried his head against her stomach.
Bella's hands gripped Edward's shoulders. This was the very last response that she expected him to have.
"I'm such an asshole! Fuck! I just dropped you! I thought that I was being so fucking noble but the truth is I am a fucking coward Bella!" Edward began to rant.
Bella shook her head, "You're not." She protested.
Edward growled, "Yes, yes I am! I was so afraid that you…" he swallowed. He had not admitted to anyone what his greatest fears were.
Even though it was illogical because Renee was not Bella's biological mother and so her mental illness could not be passed on, Edward had feared that he was going to 'lose' Bella after her diagnosis of Pre and Post Partum Depression. Both he and Charlie had been terrified that Bella would become like Renee. They had all experienced the evil of that woman and the thought that Bella could even remotely be like her had sent them both into a panic that none of their family had been able to appease.
As Bella looked down at him, she began to understand. Part of her was pissed that he would think that she could ever be anything like that monster, but a greater part of her understood his fears. She understood because in the beginning she had the same fear.
Bella put her hands against his cheeks, her thumbs gently rubbed the prickly hair of his stubble, "I get scared about that as well baby, but I am not her. I will never be her and I want you to know something; I have been for a full psyche evaluation."
Edward's eyes widened in shock, "I would never ask you to," he began.
"I know! I know, but I needed to know. I did it for me. I am one hundred percent fine and healthy. There is no residual depression, manic or otherwise." Bella said proudly.
Bella tenderly brushed aside a strand of hair that had fallen onto his forehead and she smiled, "And apart from an unhealthy fear of creepy crawlies and snakes, I am quite 'normal'."
Edward got to his feet, "Dear God Bella! You didn't have to do that, I never expect…" Bella put her hand over his mouth.
"I know that you didn't but like I said, Edward, over the past six months I've become quite attuned to what I want and what I need.'
She moved to sit on the bench and Edward sat beside her as he took her hand in his.
He couldn't stand to not touch her.
"I know that sounds selfish, but sometime between Max's birth and the hysterectomy, I stopped thinking about myself or taking care of myself."
She looked down at her clasped hands; "I stopped counting me into the equation. I know that it's ridiculous, but I stopped counting myself or rating myself." Bella shook her head, "I'm not explaining this very well, am I?"
She looked up at Edward with her eyebrows delicately arched.
Edward smiled tenderly. He loved every little thing about her, "You are explaining exceedingly well, please carry on with what you were saying."
Bella nodded, "Okay, well, I intentionally put everyone else first, so that I didn't have to deal with the fuck up that I was making of my life, until one day I just couldn't do it any longer. I couldn't hide or try to 'kill off' who I am, and I had enough. It hasn't been easy, but Paul, Kate and Garrett have been a godsend, and I make a conscious decision every day to be kind to myself–that also ties into keeping my anorexia under control. I've been working out every day."
Edward couldn't stop his eyes from raking over her slim body, "I noticed."
Bella blushed and he grinned. Bella rolled her eyes at him, "Such a boy." She laughed.
Bella's smile faded, "I know that I have probably broken every single 'rule' in every Dominant manual that there is. I'm sorry Edward, but I–I need to be in this lifestyle! And I don't want to do it without you, but I will! But if," her dark brown eyes filled with tears and this time she didn't stop them.
"If, um, if you don't," Bella swallowed the lump in her throat and cleared it, "if you don't want me then you have to tell me!"
There–she had said it. Finally, every fear that she had experienced over the past four years or longer had been exposed and expressed. Bella felt pride in the fact that she had managed to open her mouth and speak up. Bella felt her shoulders sag with relief.
That was everything. Then Bella remembered the photograph and she groaned inwardly. She had to tell him about that but before she could open her mouth, Edward began to speak.
"Bella, it was never my intention to walk away from you or our lifestyle. I know that I have failed you again, but baby, I could never be a Dom to anyone else. It is only you; it has always been only you. I am so sorry for all the unnecessary pain that I have caused you and I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you, if you will let me."
He reached out and wiped his thumbs over the tear tracks on her cheeks with a smile, "I hate to see you cry, Baby Girl."
They came together to hold each other tightly and Edward lowered his mouth over hers with a groan.
What began as chaste and lovely soon became heated with a dueling of their tongues until they pulled away to take in gulps of air with cheesy grins plastered on their faces.
Edward's mirth faded as he brushed Bella's hair off her shoulder, "I have something to tell you and I'm not sure how you are going to take it. I know that I have no right to ask, but could you please listen to me before you take off my head?"
Bella grew pale and she licked her lips, "How bad is it?"
Edward's hands closed over her shoulders and he pressed his s forehead to hers, "Please, please, please try to understand that I didn't set out to deceive or betray your confidence…"
His heart was thudding loudly as he watched Bella take his words in and he watched as she completely misconstrued his words.
Bella gasped as she tried to pull away, "What? Oh God, Is there someone else? Was that fucker telling the truth?"
Edward held her firm as she struggled, "NO! LET ME GO!" she shouted as she began to cry.
Edward managed to get both arms around her and he held her tightly to his chest, while trying to avoid her kicking feet.
"Isabella, ISABELLA! CALM. DOWN!"
Bella hadn't heard that voice in a long time and while she wanted to drop to her knees, she was beyond pissed.
"YOU DON'T GET THE RIGHT TO CALL ME THAT, YOU BASTARD! YOU LYING, CHEATING…"
She never got any further because Edward put on hand over her mouth as he pulled her against his chest even tighter.
"I. Am. Not. Cheating! I have never even kissed a woman outside of a movie or publicity shot and you know that! Why the fuck would you think that I was cheating? Now, are you going to listen to me? Please!" Bella could see that Edward was telling the truth.
She wanted to bite his hand but she decided to pick her battles and so she nodded while her eyes glared daggers at him.
"When I was in L.A. I received an unmarked, plain buff envelope at the front desk of my hotel…"
Bella's face that was bright red a few seconds before turned deathly pale.
Edward felt Bella stiffen beneath his hand and he shook his head slowly, "Will you please just listen to me? Please, baby."
Bella nodded but she had a terrible sense of foreboding.
"The envelope contained two photographs–of you. One was of you leaving Breaking Dawn and the other was you in the playroom at the club."
Suddenly Bella pushed Edward's arms off her and she leap to her feet only to move a few steps away and vomit into the undergrowth.
Edward was at her side quickly and he held back her braid as she emptied her already empty stomach. When she was finished, Edward handed her his bottle of water and his towel.
Bella wiped her face and rinsed her mouth out as she stared blindly into the forest.
He knew before she had told him, everything or at least part of it.
She wasn't sure how she felt about that.
Bella was certain that at some stage she would be angry that she had been 'tricked' into telling him when he knew but for the moment she felt intense relief.
Edward knew and he hadn't run.
Edward knew and he came looking for her.
Edward knew and all that he had expressed was sorrow, remorse and regret for his behavior.
Edward knew and he still loved her.
A thought struck her. The previous night she had felt a small electrical current on her skin in the playroom. The kind that she only got when Edward was near!
She gasped and turned to look up at him with wide anxious eyes, "You were there. Last night, you were there?"
Edward knew what she was talking about and smiled slightly, "How did you know?"
"I felt you and thought that it was just my wishful thinking."
"I felt you as well. The pull to come to you was terrible and Garrett spent a while threatening to have me thrown out if I so much as peeped at you." He said ruefully.
"You were absolutely exquisite. You looked like an exotic creature. You were perfect and I know that you are not wearing my collar, but I was so damn proud of you last night. You were the epitome of a submissive." Edward's deep velvety voice almost left her breathless.
"Thanks," she said almost dismissively when inside she was jumping up and down like a teenaged fan girl!
Edward wasn't fooled but he didn't comment, except to ask if she wanted to head back to Kate and Garrett's.
"Not yet, can we stay here and finish this?"
Edward agreed and when they were sitting down once more he continued.
"At first I thought that they were old photos, you know something that you had taken but that was before I saw the date at the bottom of the pictures. I remembered that date because you said that you had meetings to attend and then you and Kate were going out to dinner before you came home."
Bella blushed at being caught in the lie.
Edward shook his head, "No, Baby, you don't owe me an apology. I know why you lied and I was the one to fuck up, not you. You were doing what you could to get happy and healthy and I was too fucking wrapped up in my own self-righteous life to see any of it."
Bella could see the truth of his words in his face and she nodded.
"I'm not telling you this to embarrass or humiliate you at all, I'm just explaining, okay?"
Bella nodded, "Okay,"
"Okay. Well, I freaked the fuck out and I ended up calling Jazz in a flat spin. He basically ordered me back home but asked me not to tell you that we were meeting. We met at my hotel room yesterday morning. He asked Garrett to attend the meeting along with Emmett."
"Emmett called some reinforcements in to take the pictures to their lab but when Garrett saw the photos he told me that they were taken at his club and I almost punched his fucking lights out."
At Bella's worried look, Edward took her hand, "I didn't, even though I wanted to. I thought that I was too late. I thought that you were tired of waiting for me to get my shit together and that you had moved on and when Garrett said that, well, it was almost too much."
Bella didn't know what to say. Her mind was a jumbled mess as she began to realize that someone knew what she was doing – someone knew what she was!
"Someone knows – about me, I mean," she murmured.
Edward put a finger under her chin and gently lifted her face so that he was staring into her eyes, "Isabella, I promise that we are going to do everything in our power to protect you."
"But this isn't about me–this is about you, your career–your business! Our kids and the rest of the family will become outcasts if this gets out!"
Edward shook his head, "Bella, we spent hundreds of thousands every year on PR. We will find this fucker and we will stop this and if it does get out, our family knows. As for the kids, well four of them are almost not kids anymore and the other three will be fine."
He leaned forward and kissed her forehead, "I'm not going anywhere baby girl. Not for a very long time. This time I'm not going to fuck up again, I promise."
Bella closed her eyes as his lips moved against her skin. "I'm sorry that I've put us in jeopardy, I really fucked up."
Edward pulled away to look at her, "No you didn't! You don't have to apologize, because you have done nothing wrong. Please don't say that you are sorry for something that neither of us is ashamed of."
Bella nodded but Edward could see that she was holding something back.
"What is it, baby?"
"I, um, I got a photograph as well…"
"What?" Edward's jaw dropped in shock, "Are you serious? Of what? When?"
Bella explained about the envelope arriving the same day that he received his. She went on to retell him everything that she had done, including her meeting with Anderson.
Edward was furious.
"Bella, why are you only telling me this now? Fuck it! We need to talk to Emmett. I don't want Anderson on this–I need the best and my brother is the best there is!"
He stood up and gripped her hand, "Come on, we need to get back to Garrett and Kate's."
Bella refused to move and Edward swung around, "What?"
Bella shook her head, "This–this right here? This shit isn't going to fly any more Edward. You don't get to go off on a tirade and just expect everyone to fall in with you! Not anymore! You are my husband and you may be my Master but you are not the 'boss' of me! I'm not one of your kids and you can't just order me around like this. Damn it–we have to talk about things like this. Now let me just say that I asked Andy to keep this just between us. I wanted to see if he could find out any other information before I told you about it. I made a copy so that I could show it to you. It's basically photos of you and Whitney on the street and then another one of the two of you going into a restaurant or something. There was a message at the bottom of the picture. I have it in my purse. Now, if you have calmed down and if you are ready to behave without having a hissy fit, then we can go."
Bella put both hands on her hips as she stared Edward down. He loved the new feistiness in her, he thought as his dick twitched.
"Sorry. I wasn't thinking." He said sheepishly.
Bella nodded and she put her hand out. Edward grasped it and they walked back to Garrett and Kate. They didn't talk about what was utmost on their minds; instead, Bella updated him on the children. He listened with a smiled plastered on his handsome face as Bella relayed anecdotes from the past three weeks.
When they arrived back at the house, Kate greeted them warmly from the kitchen as she prepared breakfast for all of them.
Bella excused herself to take a shower, while Edward sat at the kitchen counter chatting to Kate as she finished up their breakfast.
"How are you two doing?" Kate asked as Edward helped her to set the plates out.
"Okay. No, actually, we are better than 'okay'. We had a good talk and I listened."
Kate looked up at her friend, "That's good, it's about time but I just need to say this and Master would give me twenty for saying it but here goes." She straightened up and stared at him, "You had better make sure that this is the last time that you leave that woman, Edward. The next time she arrives here crying because of you being a selfish ass, I'm giving Bella the number to the best fucking divorce attorney in the state and you will see your ass!"
Kate's blue eyes were ice cold as she glared at Edward across the table.
"I won't make this mistake again, Kate. I know that I've been a dick but I had my reasons…"
"Don't try and justify your behavior, either! If Garrett shut me off from being his sub, I would waste no time in kicking him to the curb, let me tell you!"
A throat clearing behind them made Kate jump.
She was already in hot water for crashing the club the night before without telling him!
"Please don't let me interrupt you, Kate." Garrett's smooth voice even made Edward nervous.
Kate shook her head quickly before she stepped back and pulled Garrett's chair out, "Master, breakfast is ready."
Garrett raised an eyebrow, "Oh its 'Master' now? Huh, a few seconds ago I believe that I was 'Garrett'. Maybe I heard wrong."
Garrett didn't wait for an answer as he turned to Edward, "Morning E. How are you this morning?"
The men sat down while Kate stood behind Garrett's chair silently as she waited for her Master's permission to take her seat.
Edward was surprised by the feeling of longing that he felt as he watched Garrett interact with Kate as a Dom.
It had been so long since he and Bella had been this open with each other. It had been too long since he had been around others that shared their lifestyle.
Edward was even more surprised when Bella walked in to the Kitchen and she greeted Garrett first.
"Morning Sir. May I speak to your girl at the table?"
Garrett smiled, "Morning Bells, and you may, although I have a feeling that my girl had better get all of her words out now because she won't be doing a lot of talking for the rest of the weekend."
Kate whispered, "Thank you Master," before she took her seat next to Bella and the two of them fell into quiet conversation.
Garrett looked at Kate and rolled his eyes, "She never learns." He said half to himself.
Edward smiled, "She keeps you on your toes."
"Every single day!"
"So, did you talk? I saw your car outside just after Bella left and I wondered if you were going to find her."
Edward sighed, "We spoke – it was good, very good. We finally opened up about everything and I told her about the photographs."
The two men stared at each other.
"Gar, there's more. Bella received a photograph as well."
Bella looked up at the sharp tone in Garrett's voice but Edward shook his head at her slightly and she went back to talking with Kate.
"Yeah, she's got a copy. She gave the original to Anderson yesterday."
"She is a very smart woman." Edward agreed.
After breakfast Kate and Bella made coffee and Garrett led the way into the den.
Garrett sat in an arm chair while Kate sat on a cushion at his feet and Edward and Bella sat on the sofa.
"Okay, so Bella, Edward, we are not here to judge or influence either of you. Bella, I understand from Edward that you have spoken about everything?"
"That's good, but I just want to say something right now. If you decide to get back into practicing the lifestyle, I expect you, Edward to dedicate yourself to being the best Dominant for Isabella. There can be no half measures, not this time. You have had your 'free passes' and now you are on probation. I expect you to get into training immediately. Find a Dom in your area or online, but you are on probation. I understand that with a house full of children we cannot live a 24/7 lifestyle and sometimes time goes by and we get busy, but as a Dom, it is your duty to make sure that first and foremost, all of your submissive's needs are met." His face was stern as he stared unwaveringly at Edward.
Bella's face was burning as she held tightly onto Edward's hand. She knew that Garrett was the one person that Edward submitted to. Even though they were both Dominants, Garrett was the Master and Edward would forever be his apprentice.
Bella could feel how Edward's shoulders had begun to slump as Garrett tore a strip off him, "Edward, I have to say that I am shocked that you have behaved so high handedly for so long. Have you told Bella that you are taking time off?"
Edward sighed, "Not yet, Sir. We have a lot to talk about."
Garrett narrowed his eyes at his mentee, "Clearly. Well, then I would say that that is our cue to leave this discussion for another time. I expect to hear from you in the next few days, Edward, regarding your training, understood?"
"Yes, Sir. I would just like to thank you, Sir and your girl for being here for Isabella when I obviously wasn't." Edward said quietly.
Kate smiled warmly at her friends but said nothing. She had heard the clear warning in her Master's tone earlier.
"We will always be here for you both, but you will not get another warning from me, Edward. The next time I will demand your back." The two men stared at each other until Edward nodded.
"The next time, I will gladly give it."
Garrett stood up and held out his hand and Edward clasped it tightly.
"Don't let her down again."
Bella turned away to wipe the wetness that lay on her cheeks. She didn't often see Edward vulnerable and to see him humble himself made her very emotional.
Edward gathered Bella's clothes bag and her overnight bag before he packed it into the boot of her Lexus LX570. That was a bright cherry red. Bella loved her SUV and it had been a 'family' Christmas gift from a grumpy Edward the previous year because it was an 'eight' seater and everyone could fit inside.
Of course, he had wanted to purchase a car that cost a quarter of a million dollars but Bella had put her foot down. She had insisted that he purchase a car that she was comfortable driving and so they reached a compromise: She got the car that she wanted but Edward had it pimped out completely with the now standard tracking, anti-hijacking, anti-terrorist devices, including satellite tracking (that was accurate to within six inches!), full bullet proofing on the body and windows and a fitted survival kit that would be good for ten days in the Alps!
The end result was the same, but Bella had received her eighty thousand dollar SUV with accessories that cost over two hundred thousand. Her Mini Cooper was her guilty pleasure, but so was the SUV and it was comfortable to drive over any distance.
Bella reached for Kate but when she drew back slightly Bella remembered that she was collared and she quickly asked Garrett for permission to hug her goodbye.
"Thank you Katy. I will talk to you on Monday–it should be safe by then right?" Bella whispered.
They shared a smile as Garrett chuckled, "Hopefully Katy will be able to talk to you by then, we will see, right girl?"
Kate's eyes lowered as she gave a nod.
"Bye Bells, we will talk soon." Garrett said as he hugged her.
Edward walked over and he said goodbye as he slipped an arm around Bella's waist.
Edward handed Bella her keys and her mouth dropped, "You aren't going to drive?"
"It's your car and I have kind of hijacked it."
"What about the rental?"
"I've made arrangements for it to be collected here."
Bella nodded as they got into the car.
"Listen Bella, I was wondering if you would like to stay in the city tonight. I haven't checked out of the W yet and perhaps it will be better to talk on neutral ground?"
Bella was touched by Edward's thoughtfulness and she was amused by his obvious nervousness. She had been thinking of proposing something similar and so she quickly agreed as they drove to Paul Banner-Jones' office.
Paul hardly consulted over weekends anymore, but he always made an exception for Edward or Bella.
He was waiting in the reception when they walked in and he smiled approvingly at their joined hands and smiling faces.
"Welcome! Well aren't you both a sight for sore eyes! Here, I was expecting to be handing out Xanax like skittles and you walk in looking like an advert for a romantic movie of the week!"
Bella grinned, "So now we finally know what your vice is Doc – Romantic made-for-TV movies!"
"I admit it totally. It is the most relaxing pastime."
The men shook hands before Paul looked from one to the other, "Okay, now Bella, your session is first. I would suggest that I talk to Bella alone and then I would like to talk to Edward and then we can sit down and talk together. That way you will both be able to talk freely and decide what you would like to say to each other. How does that sound?"
They shared a look, "I will be happy with whatever Bella decides." Edward said quietly.
Bella reddened but she spoke up, "I would like to talk to Paul first."
Paul led Bella back to his office.
"Well, Bella this is a very different turn of events. How are you feeling about having Edward outside?" he asked as soon as they were settled.
Bella didn't bother to try and cover up her joy at being reunited with Edward, as well as how happy she was that they finally had no secrets between them.
"It feels kind of surreal but really, really good!" she said with a little laugh.
Paul raised his eyebrows, "What is different about his coming home this time?"
Bella leaned forward, "He knows everything." She let out a happy sigh, "Paul, he knows everything! I didn't hold back, I told him that he has been hiding, absent and a shitty Dom and he didn't freak out at all! He knows about the club, hell he saw me at the club last night."
At Paul's shocked look Bella quickly explained about the anonymous photographs that led Edward to the club.
"Are you angry at Garrett for betraying your trust?"
Bella thought about that before she answered him, "Honestly? No I'm not. I have always understood that Garrett took a risk in doing what he did for me and I trust him. Garrett won't betray my trust and it was only when he didn't see another way out that he told Edward. Even then he didn't explain everything. He just let Edward observe and then sent him home."
"What has Edward's response been?"
"He is sorry for shutting me out. He apologized, more than once." Bella shrugged.
"Do you believe that he is sincere?"
"… but?" Paul prompted.
Bella stared at him for a long time before she answered quietly, "But what if something else sets him off? What if he decides to run away from another 'situation' at home?"
Bella's eyes filled with tears, "I want to trust him, I really do, but he has hurt me…"
Paul nodded, "I think that you need to voice this fear to Edward. Would you be able to do that?"
"Okay, let's talk about last night, how did it go?"
"It was good. I felt a little odd, dressing up like you suggested, but once I was dressed, and I saw myself in the mirror, it was easier to slip into a submissive mindset."
Bella laughed, "It is really odd, but the entire evening I was visualizing my Master and it helped me to stay focused."
"Did you feel guilty?"
Bella nodded, "Yes, but not as much as I felt like a failure. I just can't get passed feeling that somehow I wasn't good enough for Mast, um, for Edward."
"How have you been during the week? Any feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, unable to cope?"
Bella and Paul spoke for another forty minutes before Paul brought their session to a close.
They walked into the lobby and Edward put the magazine down that he had been reading and stood up.
"Is everything okay?" he asked when he saw the residue of tear tracks on Bella's cheeks.
"I'm fine. I'm going to take a walk to the bistro on the corner for a cup of coffee and then I will see you here in an hour?" Bella looked to Paul for confirmation.
He nodded and Bella breathed a sigh of relief when she walked into the bright morning sunshine. She needed a little while to herself.
She chose a quiet table under a bright umbrella outside the small café. After ordering a Latte and a slice of carrot cake, Bella pulled out her journal and began to put her thoughts down.
Writing in her journal was another way that Bella was able to keep track of her emotional 'scale'. Each day she spent some time jotting down whatever she wanted to. Her fears, hopes, dreams, aspirations were documented and even day to day occurrences like attending a parent meeting, or a conversation with one of the children. Anything that had struck a chord inside her was put down in writing.
Paul had made it clear when he had first suggested journaling that Bella didn't have to show her writing to anyone unless she wanted to.
The alarm on Bella's cell phone sounded and she quickly paid her bill and walked the half a block to the wellness center.
When she walked in, she noticed that Paul's door was still closed and she was about to sit down when the door opened and Paul stuck his head out.
"Bella, you can come on back."
Bella put a hand on her stomach to stop the butterflies that were jumping around.
She walked into the office and immediately her eyes went to Edward who stood at the floor to ceiling glass doors that looked out onto the beautiful courtyard garden.
His back was towards her but Bella could see the tension and strain in the long line of his back and shoulders.
His hands were pushed into the pockets of his jeans and his head was bowed. Every part of her ached to rush to his side and comfort him, but when she looked to Paul, he shook his head slightly and Bella sat down on the sofa.
Paul closed his office door and sat in one of the arm chairs before he spoke to Edward.
"Edward, are you ready to carry on?"
Edward's shoulders stiffened and he turned to take a seat next to Bella.
Bella's heart broke a little when she saw the dark green of his eyes and the sadness that was etched onto his face. He looked older, strained, disheartened and Bella had to force herself not to reach out to comfort him.
Once Edward had sat down, Bella couldn't help herself and she reached blindly for his hand only to find that he was reaching for her.
Their fingers intertwined and Bella stole a sideways glance only to meet Edward's eyes as he looked at her.
Edward opened his mouth but he was interrupted by Paul.
"I think that we need to go over a few ground rules for this session and any other joint sessions that we have. First of all, this is not a platform to shame, humiliate or hurt each other. This is not about getting me to take your 'side' or confirm that one person is more 'right' than the other. This is about teaching you to communicate truthfully and openly with each other. You have been married for twenty years and it isn't uncommon to slip into the 'sameness' of family life and often couples find that around this time, when children are leaving or in your case, you have had a couple of untoward occurrences, the birth of Max, your depression Bella, your hysterectomy,"
Bella felt Edward's fingers squeeze around her and she took comfort in his touch.
"In times of crisis, couples who have been married for a long time suddenly find that they have forgotten what bound them together in the first place. Little league games, proms, school meetings, work, careers have become the topics that occupy a couples bedroom conversation rather than flirting, wooing, courting. These things are all but forgotten."
Bella felt sad as she heard the truth behind Paul's words. She and Edward had forgotten how to spend time loving each other. She remembered the hours that they would steal to bathe together, which ended up with them soaking the floors as they slipped and slid back to their bed. The 'stolen' kisses and caresses had become a thing of the past.
Edward and Bella looked at each other sadly.
"Before you get ready to throw you arms up in horror, let me just say that in ninety-five percent of the time, if both parties are willing to put in some work, they are able to progress their relationship from superficial to intimate in a relatively short space of time."
"I cannot live without you and I will do whatever it takes." Edward said quietly.
Bella nodded, "I will do anything to get back to where we need to be."
Paul drew their attention back, "That's great to hear. So, let's begin. Whatever is spoken about in this room is private and sacred. I don't care what you say, there are no repercussions, is that clear?"
They both nodded.
"For the next week, there will be no sex."
Paul chuckled, "See? You are in agreement already!"
Neither Edward nor Bella smiled, "That's not even funny Paul! We have been apart for three weeks!" Bella hissed.
Paul grinned and rubbed his hands together, "I know and you are going to have to do without sex for the next seven days."
Edward was grumbling under his breath while Bella huffed indignantly.
"Now, I didn't say that you cannot be intimate, I just said no intercourse, because obviously you both have no issue with that side of your relationship, but I'm willing to bet that it has been a while since you have been intimate with each other, am I correct?"
After a few moments of silence and a shared look of embarrassment, they both nodded silently.
Paul nodded, "Okay, now that that is out of the way, let's move on. Today we are going begin with me asking questions and I would like both of you to have a chance to voice your opinion. There are no right or wrong answers because the questions are based on how each of you feel."
Paul moved on to the first question.
"What do you want your partner to know about your right at this minute? Bella, why don't you go first?"
Bella licked her lips, "I want Edward to know," she turned in her seat and looked at Edward, "I want you to know that I'm happy that you are here with me, but I'm scared that I will be hurt again."
"Bella, I want you to know that I want to change for you, for us! I'm sorry that I put you in a 'gilded cage' for all this time. I want to show you that I can do this."
"Bella, how does it feel when you hear Edward say that to you? Do you believe him?"
Bella took a deep breath and quickly reminded herself that it wasn't the time to protect Edward's feelings.
"I want to… but what if you change your mind?"
"Give me a chance to show you, please. I know that I've abused your trust, but please just give me a chance to show you that I can do this!"
They stared at each other wordlessly.
Paul leaned forward, "Edward, you need to acknowledge that Bella has a right to feel this way and Bella you need to open up to Edward just enough to let him in."
He sat back and watched as Bella took Edward's hand in both of her own.
"I have never stopped loving you or wanting you. That isn't what this is about. I just want to have a complete relationship with you again. It's like we have only been living half a life for the past few years and I don't want that anymore. I know that we can't play every day or week and of course we are going to have times when we are out of sync, but we made it work before we had Max! And I want that again and if that seems selfish then I'm sorry, but its how I feel! I know that we are past the role playing and the munches and the play parties and playrooms I'm fine with that, but I also know that there is so much more to a D/s relationship and I want to explore that with you." Bella was panting by the time that she finished her little speech. She was blushing and her hands were shaking but she felt proud of the fact that she had been able to voice her opinion.
Paul smiled at her.
"Very good, Bella. Edward, what do you want to say?"
Edward swallowed hard against the panic that he felt. Just the thought of not having Bella in his life was enough to send him into a panic attack like the one that he had earlier during his private session.
Paul closed the door and motioned for Edward to sit down. "I'm glad that you are here Edward, but I'm sorry that it has taken you so long to acknowledge that you need help."
Edward's ears turned pink at the gentle rebuke.
"Please tell me why you are here."
"I have fucked up my relationship with Bella and I'm not sure what to do to fix it."
Paul raised his eyebrows, "What prompted this?"
"I've known that there was a problem for a long time, and I knew that it was my problem. My fears that were pushing her away, but it was only when I got those photos of Bella that I realized just how far I have pushed her away. When I think that she could have found someone else…" he shook his head and buried his face in his hands as his breathing became labored and he had trouble breathing as he thought about Bella leaving him…
It felt like hours but was only minutes later that Paul urged him to put his head between his knees and to breathe slowly and calmly.
It was a while before Edward was able to continue.
Edward looked up and noticed that Paul and Bella were waiting for him to talk. He turned so that he was facing Bella.
"I am so sorry that I pushed you away baby. I just get so damn scared that something is going to happen to you. It's my fault – all of it! I know how strong you are emotionally and physically but I still see you as fragile and you are sometimes, I look at you and I think that you would break in a heartbeat and I just want to protect you!"
Edward closed his eyes briefly, "I also know that I need to change how I see you, because you are strong and capable and I respect and admire you so much. You are a wonderful wife and mother." Edward ran his hands through his wild hair, "This insecurity that I have is mine, not yours. I have done a shit job at being your Dominant and I want to change that. I know that I have to earn your trust again, but please give me the chance to do that. Just don't leave me."
Bella had begun to cry.
"I'm not going to leave you Edward! I don't know why you think that? I have never given you a reason to think that I'm going to leave you, have I?"
Edward shook his head, "No, but I've left you alone for so long…"
Bella bit back a sob, "Then don't do that anymore! Stay with me and fight for us!"
With that Edward gathered Bella into his arms as they both shed tears over the hurt that they had been feeling.
Paul stood up quietly and he left the couple alone while he went to the small kitchen and poured three cups of coffee.
It saddened him that his friends were hurting so badly but he was also pleased that they had come to him. He knew how much they loved each other and he also knew that it would only be a matter of time before their bond was stronger than ever.
When he walked back into the room, he smiled at the sight of Bella curled up on Edward's lap as they held each other.
He set the tray on the table in front of them and cleared his throat, "Okay, now let's have some tea and talk about where we go from here."
Bella blew her nose as she shifted off Edward's lap.
She smiled when he pulled her tightly against his side and her smile matched his.
They were in this together, no matter what happened.
Bella felt Edward's lips graze her ear as he uttered the words that they had whispered to each other just moments before.
"To infinity and beyond."
The words warmed both of their hearts as they listened as Paul began to outline a solution.
A/N: Okay, so not much action, but lots going on! This is the beginning of Edward and Bella's way back. This is a slower burn than PLU, but you know that they will get back that 'lovin' feeling' and lots of it, so just hang in there, okay?
Once again, there will be no cheating in this story!
Thanks again for all of the love and support, I really appreciate it.
STORY REC: My awesome beta asked me to rec this story and I must say, it's well worth the read! This is the link on twcs: . ?sid=5219
The Broken Road That Led Me To You by Jadedtigger
Bella is thinks she is in love with Jacob but soon finds herself in an abusive relationship that spirals into years of an abusive marriage. She finally finds the courage to get herself out but still has her demons to face as she learns to start living life again. As she begins to heal and put together a new life for herself, she meets Edward, there in an instant connection between the two but can she find the courage to open herself up again? To take a risk to love?
This story is ultimately about redemption of one's self, finding the courage to face the past. and learning to love.
Till next time,