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 felt something tickle her cheek and she flicked it away in her sleep. Edward chuckled quietly as he traced the curve of her chin with his pointer finger.
Max was due home that morning and Bella was relishing her last quiet morning for a while but it seemed that Edward had other ideas.
Brown eyes cracked open and glared at his handsome face, "Edward Cullen, you are a menace! Go away!"
Edward laughed again but this time he ducked his head and gently scraped his stubble chin against Bella's bare shoulder.
"Ow! Damn, you are like a grizzly bear!" Bella tried to swat him away as he rolled on top of her.
As they tussled, the bedding became tangled in their legs until they could hardly move and they were laughing so hard, they were breathless.
Finally they lay panting and giggling as they exchanged kisses.
Suddenly Edward sat up and stared over at the clock.
"Shit! Your dad's here!" he hissed and it was only then that Bella heard her youngest child's high pitched babbling and the low rumble of her father's voice.
Edward was scrambling to pull on his sleep pants and he threw his discarded shirt to Bella, who quickly remembered that she was naked and pulled it on.
She was just rolling up the sleeves when the bedroom doors were pushed open with force.
"See, Grumpy? I told you that she was here! It's –" suddenly Max stopped in the middle of the room and gasped, "DADDY!" he shouted and he tripped as he ran into his father's arms.
Edward scooped him up and peppered his face with kisses as Max squealed and laughed hysterically.
Bella watched the scene with a lump in her throat. She looked up to see Charlie standing in the doorway with a satisfied look on his face.
"Hey Dad," Bella got up and walked over to kiss Charlie.
"Hey Bells. I'm glad to see that you have been taking advantage of the empty house."
Bella blushed as she tried to pull Edward's shirt over her legs.
Charlie laughed, "It's okay, Kid, at least you are moderately covered up."
Bella rolled her eyes, "Do you have time for some tea? I have a coffee cake that I'm sure you would love to try out."
Charlie grinned, "Sounds good. Why don't I take Max downstairs and we can put the plates out while Grandma Sue, Izzy and Casey come inside. Hey Max? Let's go and get Grandma Sue out the car okay?"
Max's small arms tightened around Edward's neck before he sighed and nodded.
He patted and then kissed Edward's cheek, "I missed you Daddy, I don't like it when you go away." He whispered.
Edward brushed the wild brown hair out of the little boy's eyes, "I missed you so much, Max-max and I promise that I won't be leaving you for a long time."
Max stared into his father's eyes. They were the same color as his own and his big brother, Jack. He loved his daddy and he could see by the bright green color that his daddy was telling the truth about not going away.
He had been having bad dreams for a while. Sometimes he could remember his dreams and sometimes he couldn't.
That nasty man had scared him and he was going to tell his brothers but then the man had told him that if he told anyone, Max was going to be taken away from his mommy and daddy and they wouldn't find him and so he had kept the secret, but Grumpy knew something was wrong because he had wet his bed.
Grumpy promised that he wouldn't tell. Max felt safe in his daddy's arms. His daddy was strong and Max wanted to tell him about the man but he was scared.
Max nodded satisfied and he wiggled to the ground. As he reached his grandfather, he looked up at his mother and pulled on the end of the funny dress that she was wearing.
Bella knelt down and Max hummed as he felt her small but strong arms wrap around his body.
Nothing in the world felt better to Maxwell Cullen than the feel of his parent's arms around him.
"Welcome home, Max." Mommy whispered into his ear.
Max giggled happily as he took his grandfather's hand and he tugged him down the stairs, "Come on Grumpy, let's go get the others!"
Bella and Edward did their ablutions quickly and they dressed similarly in shorts and T-shirts and while Bella went into the kitchen to pour juice and start a pot of tea, Edward walked outside to the waiting truck where Charlie was busy unloading Max's bags.
"Edward! It's good to have you back, Son!" He smiled and hugged Sue and kissed her cheek.
"Watch it, Whippersnapper!" Charlie barked as he threw a sleeping bag at Edward's head. Luckily Edward ducked and it missed, but he had the distinct impression that if Charlie tried to hit him, he wouldn't miss.
"Charlie!" Sue admonished, while Edward grinned at his father in law, "Hey Charlie, glad to see you are in a good mood."
Three little eavesdroppers giggled as the two men exchanged good natured ribbing.
Bella walked outside and she smiled at Seth's two children that were a carbon copy of their father. Both had thick, dark brown hair and smiling brown eyes.
"Who wants some coffee cake or Spiderman and Barbie cupcakes?"
"Aunty Bewwa!" Isabelle shouted gleefully. Bella held out her arms as the little girl sprinted forward.
"You look as if you all had a really good time camping! Are you hungry?"
Max and Izzy nodded while Casey answered quietly. Casey was quiet like his mother, while Isabella was outgoing and friendly like her father.
Max led the procession inside while Bella waited for her step mother and hugged her tightly, "Hey Sue, I'm amazed that you are still sane after having this lot for five days in the wild!"
"To tell you the truth, Bells, I love every minute of it. These little ones really brighten up our quiet lives. We had a fabulous time and you know how much we love Schoolhouse Canyon. I could hardly keep the boys out of the water." Sue explained as Sue carried the pot of tea, while Charlie loaded up a large wooden tray and Bella poured plastic 'glasses' of juice, while Edward handed each child a cupcake of their choice before he opened the back glass door that led to the expansive outside dining room and breathtaking back yard.
Once they were sitting outside, Edward and Charlie walked over to watch the children as they had their snack and then played on the beautiful Cederwood castle climbing frame that Edward had installed for Max's third birthday. An entire section of the expansive backyard had been converted into a child's dream play area. There was a winding path for small push bikes or dolly pushchairs; a miniature water feature complete with colorful stones, fat frogs and tiny fairies that peeped around the corners of plants as well as a teepee.
Charlie and Edward watched the children for a moment before Charlie spoke up, "Edward is everything alright with Max? Could he be picking up on the tension between you and Bella?"
Edward wanted to hit something in frustration. He wished that everyone would just leave him and Bella to sort out their own shit!
Charlie watched his son in law's growing anger and he quickly dispelled it, "I'm not trying to interfere, but something is bothering Maxwell. He was sucking his thumb the other day and he wet the bed one night. It was only when I slept with him and Case that he seemed to settle down."
Edward shook his head, "Bella hasn't said anything, but we'll watch him and talk to him. I think that it will be good for us to have some one on one time for the next two weeks. We may even go to the lake a little early this year because I've taken a leave of absence for the next six months."
Charlie was thrilled that Edward seemed to have gotten his head out of his ass.
"I keep my guns locked and loaded, Son. Just saying." Charlie muttered as he got up and walked over to push Izzy on the swing.
Edward rolled his eyes, some things never changed.
Sue and Bella sat at the bay window in the breakfast room as Sue regaled Bella with stories of the children (and Charlie's) antics that soon had them chuckling.
"I swear Bella, your dad is worse than the kids sometimes, but seeing how he lights up whenever he gets the opportunity to take them fishing or even just collecting stones, well it makes my heart melt every time."
Bella nodded. She was glad that her father had used every opportunity over the past almost twenty years to make up for the years of neglect that she had suffered at his hand when she was a child, but sometimes she still felt a twinge of resentment that it had taken heartbreak, tears and them almost losing each other for him to see what he had been missing.
Sue saw the look that Bella tried to hide and she gently put her hand over Bella's, "He will never quite be able to forgive himself for what he did to you, Bells, but he has tried to make amends in his own way over the past years. I know that you have forgiven him, but you don't need to feel guilty if you still get a little upset – you have every right to feel that way, Sweetie."
At Sue's words Bella let out a heavy sigh of relief and she turned her hand so that their hands were clasped on the table top.
"Thank you Sue, it means a lot coming from you."
Sue smiled calmly, "Now, how are you and Edward doing? I noticed some hot and heavy looks between the two of you."
Bella blushed and then laughed at herself, "Look at me! I'm an old woman and I still blush!"
Sue snorted, "Oh please Bella! You are far from old, my dear girl! If your father and I can go at it like rabbits at least once a day, then my girl, you are going to be giving your husband a 'good time' for a very long time to come!"
Bella felt her mouth drop open in shock before she almost chocked as Sue giggled and added, "Pardon the pun! You get it 'a long time to come'?"
"Sue Clearwater-Swan, you are… oh my God! You have spent far too much time with Emmett!"
Sue giggled again. When she had married Charlie, neither of them had expected Seth to ask if he could change his name to Clearwater-Swan and Charlie had been so happy that he had asked Bella if she would mind if he adopted Seth. Bella had readily agreed because she already loved Seth as if he was her own brother.
Bella shook her head at her stepmother's antics, "I'm telling Seth!"
This only made Sue laugh harder, "You can act as straight-laced as you like, Mrs. Cullen, but I happen to know that you and your hunky husband do things that would make my hair curl and Charlie has some imagination..." her voice faded and Bella blanched at the dazed look in her eyes.
Bella got up quickly, "Okay! TMI, Sue! I can't believe that you still can't keep your hands off each other after all this time."
The retort on Sue's lips died when she saw the almost wistful look in her daughter's eyes.
"Bella, honey I know that things have not been 'normal' between you and Edward for some time, and honestly, I blame Charlie as well as that asshole that was supposed to be an 'expert' on Pre and post natal depression and just ended up being an absolute quack! I'm glad that he lost his license. If I had my way, or any of us, he would be rotting in jail!" Bella could see that Sue was getting worked up as most of her family seemed to do if ever the name of Ephraim Landenberg was brought up.
When Sue saw how upset Bella looked, she felt terrible, "Oh Bella, I'm so sorry for bringing this up!"
About six months after Bella had stopped seeing him; Ephraim Landenberg was arrested on charges of fraud, practicing without a license and sexual harassment. It seemed that Ephraim Landenberg was a charlatan and because of the lawsuit that Bella had brought against him, the Medical Board had conducted an in-depth investigation into his past and they had discovered that Ephraim Landenberg did not exist. The man's real name was Larry Calvino and he was wanted in a few states for impersonating a medical doctor.
Bella suddenly wondered what had happened to him. She had been in no state to cope with any drama as she was weaned off medication, bonded with her infant son and tried to perform as a wife and mother. She made a mental note to ask Edward if he knew what had happened to the man, although she knew that both he and Charlie carried a huge amount of guilt over the way that they had 'forced' her treatment onto her.
Bella shook her head to clear it of the negative thoughts. After she took a calming breath she smiled at Sue.
"There is nothing to apologize to me for, Sue. That man is an evil bastard, as bad as or even worse than Jacob because he deliberately preyed on innocent and sick women! He made sure that all of his victims were independently wealthy and desperate enough to just take him at face value! No one knew that he was a liar and a thief. I'm just glad that Edward saw the light before it was too late and I became a hopeless addict."
After that they kept the conversation safe and light and it wasn't long before she and Charlie drove over to Napa to take Casey and Isabelle home.
Edward and Bella spent the rest of the day with Max and he loved the exclusive attention from both his parents.
After dinner, Edward and Bella had sat in the bathroom with him while he played for a lot longer than Bella usually allowed.
After he had his Spiderman pajamas on and he had gone to the bathroom for the last time, he lay down and was asleep almost before Edward had finished reading the first page of his bedtime story.
Edward spent a few minutes running one hand through the soft wild hair that was the color of Bella's but was as wild as his. Max was the perfect mixture of the two of them. He had always been a happy and outspoken child. He was usually very independent, but both he and Bella had noticed that he had been rather clingy that afternoon and evening. He had followed Edward around the house although he had kept a close eye on Bella, asking her where she was going if she walked out of the room that they were in.
Edward was about the leave the room when Max spoke up quietly.
"Yes Buddy, what's wrong?" Edward turned to see Max staring at him with apprehension.
Max shook his head but Edward could see the sheen of tears in the little boy's eyes and he knelt next to the bed as he brushed Max's wild hair off his warm forehead.
In that moment, Max seemed a lot younger than his almost four years.
"What's the matter, my angel?"
"If the boogieman takes me, will you look for me?" Max whispered after he looked around his room to make sure that they were alone.
Edward was startled by the question and a shiver of foreboding ran down his spine.
He quickly gathered Max onto his lap "Maxwell, what are you talking about? What boogieman? Is someone telling you scary stories? You can tell me, baby." Edward urged.
Max shook his head, but his chin quivered, "Grumpy says it was only bad dreams but Daddy? If I was lost, you will look for me, hey Daddy?"
"If you got lost?"
Max nodded as his little hands gathered the soft material of Edward's T-shirt. Edward could feel the small body tremble slightly and his concern deepened.
"Uh huh. Like, like if a 'Baddie' had to stoled me; you and Mommy would find me?"
Edward became aware that Bella had walked into the room and she settled on the bed next to Edward. Her worried gaze skimmed over her son before she raised her concerned gaze to Edward.
He shook his head gently, trying to convey that he had no idea where this had come from, but that he would address it.
Edward pulled Max closer and wrapped his other arm around Bella and spoke just loud enough for both Max and Bella to hear him.
"Maxwell Edward Cullen, if you were ever lost or stolen, Mommy and I would spend the rest of our lives searching for you. All of your uncles, aunts, grandparents and brothers and sisters would hunt all over the world until we found you again. We love you so much Max, that's one of the reasons that Mommy and I wanted to give you my name. You are our son and we love you and there can never be any reason in this world that would make us stop looking for you until you were home with us again, Son. Mommy and I love all seven of our children very, very much." Edward sat up so that he could maintain steady eye contact with Max.
"Can you see that I'm telling the truth Max?" he asked as he gently brushed his thumb across the soft, baby chubby cheek.
Max stared up at his father and he seemed to be satisfied with whatever his almost four year olds eyes saw there because he nodded somberly.
"Max, you are safe sweetheart. Nothing is going to hurt you. No one is going to steal you. Mommy and Daddy are right here with you, baby," Bella said quietly.
Max nodded as he looked from his father to his mother.
Bella's heart hurt as she saw how upset Max was. Obviously he was anxious about something but she wondered what it was and decided that she would call Seth and Jesse to see whether Max had confided in his cousins at all.
For the moment, Bella put her hand over Max's chest as she leaned down and nuzzled his neck with her nose. She heard him giggle and she lifted her head as she plastered a bright smile on her face, "Max, Daddy and I are right across the hall, honey. Tonight, as a special treat we are going to put a walkie-talkie in your room." She said.
Max's old baby monitor was in the closet and Bella found it quickly and plugged it into the wall socket as she showed Max.
"Now then, when I plug this other part into our bedroom, Daddy and I will be able to hear everything that happens in your room."
Max's eyes grew big, "Weally?"
Edward nodded, "Oh yes, also there is a very loud alarm on every door and every window – even the chimney, so that no one can come into our house and if they try to break in, the alarm will go off and Uncle Emmy's men that keep us safe will come here and so will the police so the boogieman won't come here."
"What men? Like the bad men?" Max panicked.
"No, not the bad men. I'm talking about Quil, Levi, Marcus and Dillon."
"Oh, oh yeah. They are weally, weally cool." Max said. "Sammy says that they know kawate!"
Edward smiled, "Yeah, they know karate, so now do you feel better?"
Max looked from his daddy to his mommy's faces and he could see that they were not telling him fibs or stories like the twins sometimes did.
"Aaawite, I believe you now. Night-night Mommy, Daddy." He said. Edward put him back into his bed and he clutched the monitor under one arm with his stuffed cow, Mooki, and he stuck his thumb into his mouth and closed his eyes.
Bella leaned down and kissed his forehead, "Sleep tight, Sweet Prince." She whispered and Max smiled around his thumb. Bella had called him that since he was born.
Edward pressed a kiss to the top of his head, "Love you, Max. Mommy and Daddy are right here for you."
Max nodded and allowed sleep to take over. He was safe and the big meanie couldn't hurt him.
Edward led Bella into their bedroom and Bella immediately plugged the monitor receiver into the wall and she turned up the volume to test it.
The sounds of Maxwell's breathing filled the room and Edward and Bella shared a sad smile.
Edward frowned, "I wonder what the fuck is going on? Charlie said that Max has begun wetting his bed and he's sucking his thumb…" he raked a hand over his face.
Bella shook her head, "Edward, I didn't know that something was wrong – Max has been fine, well except for when I phoned you, but other than that..."
Edward walked across the room and he pulled Bella into a fierce hug, "Bella, this is not your fault. This is probably nothing, Baby. Remember some of the others also went through a 'monster under the bed phase?' Well, that's all it probably is, but I am going to check the house and set the alarm in any case. I'm also going to call down to the guard-house and ask whoever is on duty to be extra vigilant while we are still here. Why don't you phone Jesse and Seth?"
Edward walked around the house making sure that everything was secure. On impulse Edward took out a tray and he put the half a bottle of white wine that was left over from dinner and two glasses onto it. After he checked the time, Edward picked up the house phone and pressed a couple of buttons.
"This is Marcus"
"Hi Marcus, its Edward."
"Yes, Mr. Cullen, what can I do for you? Is something wrong?"
"Nothing is wrong that I know of, but have we had any strangers on the property besides delivery or service people lately?"
After a moment's silence Marcus spoke again, "Sir is this about that hand delivered delivery for Mrs. Cullen?"
"No, I don't think so. Look, it probably isn't anything, but Max is a bit anxious and out of sorts and he was talking about 'bad' men stealing him or him getting lost. As you know Bella, Max and I are alone for the next week or so, but I would appreciate it if you would just keep a look out for anything unusual or out of the ordinary."
"Of course, Mr. Cullen. Why don't you bring Max by the control room tomorrow? We can show him around and let him see all the precautions that we take. That may help to ease his fears."
"That's a great idea, Marcus, thank you. Good night"
"Good night Sir."
Edward felt more at ease after his conversation with Marcus. He set the alarm before he walked upstairs. He walked into Max's bedroom to check on him. The little boy was curled up as he clutched his Mooki.
Edward leaned down and kissed his baby soft cheek gently and Max gave a little sigh in his sleep. Edward made a point of checking Max's bedroom and bathroom windows.
With a final look he made his way into his and Bella's bedroom. He could hear the shower running and he didn't waste any time in shedding his clothes and joining her in their enormous wet room.
Naked Bella was normally a sight to behold but wet, naked Bella, all soaped up was a heart attack waiting to happen!
Edward's hand stroked his pulsing dick and he muffled his groan as Bella tipped her head back so rinse the conditioner out of her hair.
"Is there room enough for two?" he said.
Bella's eyes shot open and they widened as she took in the sight of him pumping his cock slowly. The flush on her cheeks had nothing to do with the warm water as she licked her lips and opened the door wordlessly.
Edward didn't stop his hand moving as he stepping inside and closed the door. Bella put her hands on Edward's hips and she moved backwards until she was sitting on the bench. Her legs were spread wide as Edward stepped between them.
He began to move his hand away, but Bella stopped him, "Don't stop," she whispered before her pink tongue darted out and she licked the deep red head, with milky precum beading at the top.
"Fuck, Bella," Edward stuttered as his hips jerked forward. He wanted to fist her wet hair and pump himself deep into her throat, but instead he put one hand on the wall behind her as he gripped his cock tighter.
Bells licked her bottom lip as she stared up at him, "Let me,"
He watched her open her mouth and he had to start counting backwards for one thousand, because the feeling of her plump lips and pink tongue had him almost creaming before she had him halfway into her mouth.
Edward held his cock, only gently massaging the base as Bella sucked and traced the veins. She was so wet, dripping as she forced herself not to break eye contact.
Instinctively she wanted to lower her gaze and slip onto her knees, but this was Edward, not her Master, not yet anyway.
"You look so fucking beautiful with my cock in your mouth baby." Edward caressed her jaw with his thumb and Bella felt her pussy twitch, searching for something.
Edward watched as she moved one hand over her flat stomach to her slit. He swallowed noisily as her fingers came away, absolutely dripping with her juices.
"Give me a taste, Beautiful."
Bella hummed in amusement as Edward devoured her fingers but the feeling of Bella humming against him, had Edward's knees almost buckling.
Bella knew that he was close when she saw his stomach muscles clench and she felt the tremor.
"Bella, fuck, baby, I'm gonna – aaaahhh!"
Bella pressed a finger against Edward's tightly clenched ass and that was enough to send his cum squirting down her throat as his legs shook.
Bella suction lessened until she licked him clean and sat back against the wall.
Edward's eyes were screwed up as he came down from one of the most powerful climaxes that he had ever experienced.
He opened his eyes when he felt a movement and his cock twitched as he saw that Bella had removed one of the detachable shower heads and she was redirecting it over her pussy.
One leg was propped up on the bench and the other teased her opening as the water sprayed against her clit. Her eyes were closed and Edward thought that she had never looked more desirable than at that moment.
He silenced knelt in front of her and for a few minutes he just watched as she teased herself.
"What are you thinking of Baby?"
Bella didn't open her eyes, but she smiled, "Hmm, the feeling of having your cock in my mouth was enough to make me so wet, Baby. I love how you just let go and I can lap and suck your cock deep into my throat."
Her eyes opened and she stared at him as she pushed two fingers inside her waiting heat, "Oh god that feels so good. Do you know how much it turns me on when you fuck my mouth?"
All that Edward could do was shake his head.
Bella licked her suddenly dry lips.
"Edward, when I have your cock in my mouth, when I am giving you pleasure, it is one of the most sexual and arousing acts that I can perform. Just knowing that you lose yourself and that I have the power to do that to you is enough to make me just explode."
Edward's eyes were drawn to where her fingers were moving in and out and the sound of her fingers breaking the suction that her pussy was creating, had Edward's dick growing hard again.
How was it possible that a middle aged man could bounce back so quickly? Edward would have been amazed if he wasn't so distracted.
His hands reached out and spread her thighs wider as he stared at her bright pink pearl begging for his attention.
Bella dropped the shower head as Edward moved forward and when his lips wrapped themselves around her clit she arched her back and cried out.
"Cum Sweetheart," he cooed as his fingers joined hers and she felt herself stretch to accommodate him.
Her climax overtook her suddenly as she gripped his wet hair and she cried out. Edward put his arms around her hips and pulled her tightly against his mouth as he moved their fingers and sucked all of the juices that ran out into his waiting tongue.
Once Bella became aware of her surroundings again, she opened her eyes to see Edward staring at her with so much love in his eyes that she wanted to cry.
"I love you, Isabella." He said quietly and she sat forward so that she could kiss him with all the love that she was feeling.
"I love you too."
After they finally washed each other, they dried off and crawled into bed after they checked on Max again.
"So, Jesse and Seth have no idea what's going on with Max. Jesse said that Seth was going to have a quiet word with Casey to see if he said anything. Maybe it's nothing."
They were lying in the dark, with Bella sprawled across Edward's chest.
Edward hummed in response as he continued to play with her hair, "Could be nothing but I called up to the Guardhouse and Marcus was on duty. He suggested that I take Max to visit tomorrow so that they can show him how well guarded we are."
Bella turned to look at him, "That's a good idea."
Edward nodded and ran his hands through her towel dried hair. He loved the feel of the soft curls through his fingers.
Bella put her head onto his chest and let out a sigh, "Sleep tight, Darling."
"Hi Mom, how are you?"
Bella smiled broadly when she heard her oldest daughter's voice.
"Alexis honey, we are fine! How are you? Have you got a tan yet? Are you wearing sunscreen?"
Alexis laughed, "We are fine, Mom and yes I'm wearing sunscreen and yes, Nana is making sure that we are all wearing sunscreen and that we take hats and T-shirts with to the beach! Don't worry about us. The boys are fine and send their love."
She looked across the kitchen to where Nicholas and Jackson are sitting along with their cousins. Although it was just after nine in the morning, they had all just sat down to breakfast.
Nicholas looked up and mouth 'Mom?' Alexis nodded, "So, is Daddy home yet?"
She could hear the happiness though the telephone as Bella giggled, "Yes he is! He surprised me by coming home early and we spent the weekend in the city before Max came home on Monday. It's been great having him home."
"I'm sure it is Mom. You sound happy."
Bella sighed, "I am Sweetheart." There was a moment's hesitation before Bella continued, "Lexi, I know that things have been strained between Daddy and I, but I want you to know that we are fine. Spending this time together has been really good for us and we are seeing someone to help us to communicate better."
Alexis turned to face the window so that no one could see the sheen of tears in her eyes. "I'm so glad Mom. You and Daddy – well, you guys are everything to us…" she left the rest of her sentence unvoiced but Bella knew what she wasn't saying.
"I'm so sorry that we scared you, Sweetheart and I promise you that your father and I are going to be stronger than ever. We love each other too much to ever even think of giving this up. Nothing and no one is going to break us apart, Lex."
Alexis gripped the phone as she heard the regret in her mother's voice. Bella had acted as if nothing was wrong but she hadn't fooled any of them and the distance between her parents had taken its toll on everyone.
Sam and Nicholas had tried to step into Edward's shoes in his absence and both Alexis and Jackson had noticed the growing contempt that Sam seemed to have for their father.
Alexis had tried to talk to Sam about his feelings, but he kept brushing her off. She hoped that he would take the time that he had while at camp to work his feelings out.
"When are you guys coming down here?" Alexis asked, changing the subject.
"We should be flying out towards the end of next week. Sam will be back from camp just after that."
After talking for a few more minutes, mother and daughter said goodbye.
Alexis jumped when she felt a hand on her shoulder and she turned to find her grandfather looking at her with concern.
"Are you okay, Lex?" Carlisle frowned at the tears in his granddaughters eyes.
Alexis nodded quickly and dashed the tears away with her hand, "Yeah, Papa. I was just talking to Mom and feeling a little homesick."
Carlisle didn't believe her but he knew when to push and when to let things go and so he just rubbed Alexis' back gently before pulling into a hug.
"You can talk to me about anything, Alexis; you don't have to carry the world on your shoulders, Sweetie."
He kissed her forehead before he searched her eyes, "You understand?"
Alexis quickly looked over at her siblings and when she saw that they were engaged in a conversation she looked back at him, "Can, um, can we talk later, Papa?"
Carlisle smiled, "Of course we can, and in fact I was going to ask if you would like to help me to get the Pride ready for the holidays."
Alexis grinned at her grandfather. They both knew that Cullen's Pride, which was Carlisle's 25' Pontoon and Carlisle's 'baby' was in perfect running order because he obsessed over it so much.
"I would love to Papa C. Do you want to take her out this afternoon?"
"That's a good idea. After lunch?"
Alexis nodded and on impulse she went up on the tips of her toes and pressed a kiss to Carlisle's cheek, "Thank you Pops." She whispered before she moved to join her siblings and cousins.
"What was that about?"
Carlisle turned to see Esme standing beside him. Although he was thinking about his grandchildren and their parents he was quick to appreciate the jeans that fitted his slim wife like a glove as well as the 'peasant' blouse that clung to her breasts like a lover's hands.
"Carlisle?" he lifted his gaze to meet Esme's amused gaze.
"Oh, sorry," he smirked, sounding anything but sorry.
"What was that about?"
"Hmm, I'm not sure, but Alexis and I are going to spend some time together this afternoon, making sure that the Pride is ready for the water. I think we may chat then."
Esme nodded, "Good, I'm glad. I spoke to Edward earlier this morning and he sounds really happy." The couple shared a look, "He sounds happier than he has in quite some time and so did Bella. I heard her and Max singing in the background."
Carlisle put an arm around Esme's slim waist, "I'm glad and I hope that this means that they have turned the corner."
"I hope so."
Alexis and Carlisle pulled the tarpaulin off the seats and Alexis went to work with a scrubbing brush, while Carlisle washed the deck before he began to polish the already spotless driver's controls. They worked in silence for a while, until Carlisle pulled out a bottle of beer for himself and a soda for Alexis.
They sat under the shade cloth and sipped their drinks.
"So, Nana told me that she spoke to your dad this morning. She said that he sounds really happy and excited to be home."
Alexis stared out at the lake as she nibbled her bottom lip and Carlisle smiled at how much like Bella she was, when she looked at him with a tinge of color on her cheeks.
"That's good. It's about time as well. Mom sounded happy too – almost giddy actually. Mom said that she and Dad are seeing a councilor or something." Her eyes filled with tears again, "I didn't know that things were that bad that they had to see someone." She said so quietly that Carlisle strained to hear her.
When she blinked rapidly he moved from the seat across from her to beside her and he drew her into a hug.
"Oh Alexis, you are so much like your parents that it is endearing as well as so darn frustrating!"
"What do you mean?"
"Well, poppet, Edward always was the most dramatic of our children." He said as he rolled his eyes. Alexis smiled, "He was?"
"Can't you tell?" They laughed then as she nodded.
"He is one of the most intense people that I've ever met and he holds so much inside. Your mother on the other hand, is a bit of an ostrich."
"An ostrich? Like the bird?"
"Exactly like the bird – you see when crisis hits she first of all blames herself, and then she hides her head in the sand and pretends that everything is just fine and you know what fine stands for, right?"
Alexis shook her head and Carlisle grinned, "Fucked up, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional"
"Papa Carlisle!" Alexis gasped as she wiped soda from her chin.
Carlisle held up a hand, "Now, don't get me wrong, Poppet, I love your mother as if she were my own daughter and I would do anything for her, but," he shook his head, "she has got to be one of the most stubborn people that I have ever met and if you combine that stubbornness with a low self esteem, the ability to jump to conclusions without listening with your father's knack for wanting to protect your mother at all costs, even or should I say especially from himself and let's just say that it can be very frustrating."
Alexis nodded but she looked worried as she bit her lip.
"What is it? You can tell me anything, Alexis, you know that."
"Well, it's just that they sound so happy but what if," she shrugged and looked away.
"What if they don't mean it?"
Alexis looked into her grandfather's blue eyes and she nodded.
Carlisle took her hand in his, "There is nothing in this world that Edward loves as much as he loves Bella and she loves him with everything inside her and that is why they messed up in the first place. You dad wants to protect your mother from anything that could possibly hurt her and if that means removing himself then that's what he will do. And she is just as bad, because instead of confronting him, she has 'bravely soldered on' but it's not so much brave as cowardly if you ask me."
As Alexis spent the afternoon talking and working alongside Carlisle, she appreciated why everyone went to him for guidance and advice. He was straightforward without being pushy and he was honest without being brutal.
As they walked back to the house, Alexis spoke again, "Thank you for today, Papa. I think that Daddy is really fortunate to have you as a father."
Carlisle stopped walking and turned to face her, "Your dad is a good man, Alexis and he would do anything for your mother or you kids. Don't let his absenteeism fool you. Sometimes it's very easy to get 'lost' in ones work if it is the 'easier' option. You dad would rather cut himself off from your mom than say or do anything to hurt her."
"The problem with that is that we, well okay, not Jack and I but Nick and Sam have had to live at the ranch as well and with him being busy or being away all the time, the boys and the minis have had a hard time with it."
Carlisle nodded, "Sam?"
Alexis nodded, "Nick too, but not as bad as Sam. He is really protective over Mom and he is pissed. That's one of the reasons why he was happy to go to camp. I don't think that it has as much to do with playing ball as it may have to do with him getting away from us."
Carlisle sighed and ran his hand through his hair. Alexis smiled sadly, every male in their family did the same thing when they were stressed or nervous, even her Uncle Jasper.
"I thought as much. The boy's been really quiet lately. Now, don't you worry about this any longer, young lady, you just let your parents handle their own balls-up! Come on, I know that Nana was going to make some brownies this afternoon."
Rosalie stared at Edward with a mixture of shock and disbelief, "Are you kidding me? Edward, that only gives us two weeks! How the fuck am I supposed to pull this off? What about…"
Edward had reached over and put his hand over her mouth while she shot daggers at him, "Please don't bite me. Rosie, I really need your help. I want to do this, I have to do this. I need to show Bella, our kids and the rest of the family that I am deadly serious. Please."
Rose stared at him over her kitchen table. Edward had arrived at the house early that morning, just as Rosalie and Emmett were enjoying a last cup of coffee before Emmett left for a meeting with the marketing people. They had developed a new white wine and there were decisions to be made regarding the bottle, label and all the other things that made a wine successful. The wine itself was only half of the package.
When Edward walked in wearing a pair of old jeans, a grey T-shirt and a pair of work boots, Rosalie cocked an eyebrow at him, "Slumming it today, Rock Star?"
Edward hadn't taken the bait and instead he had asked if he could talk to her regarding a 'sensitive' matter.
Rose had looked at Emmett who had shrugged his shoulders and kissed her goodbye.
"Rose, I um, I have already emailed Sue and asked for her discretion and her help but I need your help as well." He began hesitantly.
"I want to marry Bella, I-I mean I want to marry her again, well not marry-marry, but rededicate or renew our vows, yeah that's it, I want us to renew our wedding vows." He took a deep breath, "In Tahoe, on our wedding anniversary. On June twenty-second, that's in about um, two weeks…"
That's when Rosalie had begun to sprout protests and questions.
Once she promised to listen, Edward outlined his plan.
"I emailed Sue and she spoke to Charlie, who agreed to help me. Look, we don't need or even want a lot. It's just going to be the family and Garrett, Kate and their kids. Sue suggested that we just keep it simple, with just a blessing and vows and then a dinner. But there is stuff that I need your help with."
Rosalie's eyebrows rose and Edward swallowed nervously. Seriously, Rosalie still had the ability to make him want to protect his balls.
"Well, she will need a dress, you know and so will the girls." He looked down a crumbled piece of paper and Rose had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing.
Edward's brow crinkled in concentration as he squinted at his writing before he mumbled to himself and pulled his glasses case from his pocket and he slipped his black framed glasses on and Rosalie admitted that they just enhanced his good looks.
"Um… okay, dresses, chinos and shirts for the boys, food… um, oh shit! The rings! I need rings… hmm, I'd better phone Jerry Lebowitz," he looked up. "Hey, do you think that he's still making jewelry and stuff? I want to get the girls something special as well and maybe crest cuffs for the boys? What do you think?"
Rosalie was already on her laptop.
"Right: first of all, have you spoken to Alice yet?"
Edward shook his head.
Rosalie tut-tuttered, "Edward, you can't leave her out of the loop, she will be crushed! And besides, Tiffany, Mom and Alexis will be able to receive anything that we need to have delivered there, as well and organize local caterers, flowers, music and décor. Em and I are driving down this weekend."
Edward nodded reluctantly, "Okay, well I should go and phone Ali"
"Why don't we just call them now? That way we can put our heads together and come up with a little more than just you two wearing jeans on the beach!"
Edward smiled, "Jeans sound awesome!"
Rosalie rolled her eyes and she pulled him towards Emmett's office so that they could conference call the girls.
The house phone rang in Lake Tahoe and Tiffany picked it up. The women were going to try out a new spa, followed by lunch and shopping.
"Hello Tiffany, how are you?"
"Hi Uncle E. It's been a great vacation so far, the weather has been awesome! How are you and Aunt B doing?"
"Tiffany? Sweetie, it's Rosie, can you get your mom, Nana and Alexis together and call us back on the home phone? We need to discuss something really important."
"Sure Aunty Rose, we'll call you back in five!"
Tiffany threw the phone down and ran through the house screaming for everyone.
Five minutes later, they were huddled around the downstairs office as Alice dialed the number.
"What's happening?" Alice interrupted Rosalie's greeting.
She pouted when everyone started laughing.
"Edward! I'm almost fifty! You can't keep calling me that!"
"That's enough, you two. Now, tell us what's so important." Esme said firmly.
Tiffany and Alexis exchanged smirks. They loved it when Nana pulled 'rank' on their parents.
"Well, Mom, it's Bella's and my wedding anniversary on the twenty-second and I would like to surprise her with a vow renewal ceremony. What do-?"
The rest of his sentence was cut short by the screams that rang out. Edward growled as he covered his ears.
Finally Rosalie called everyone to order, "Okay, listen up! Now, Edward needs to tell us what he is envisaging and we need to make it a reality. Over to you Edward."
Edward looked like a deer in the headlights, fifteen minutes later and his head was spinning as the final plans were made.
He was in awe of the women in his family because each one had a list of their own duties and a time line to work from. Esme had hooked Sue into the call and they received a 'progress report' from her.
Colors, themes, menus had been decided on and planned. The actual venue for the ceremony had been agreed upon and Carlisle and Charlie had been 'volunteered' to conduct the ceremony and to facilitate the exchanging of the vows and rings.
The women decided that the men would all wear cream linen suits with white shirts. Alice was in charge of the outfits for everyone and that would include the Nomads who would be the only 'non family' component of the guest list.
"One last thing: Edward? Have you organized the rings yet?" Alice enquired.
"That it next on my list, Ali. I'm sure that Jerry will be able to do what I have in mind."
"Okay, well that's it. Now Edward, I know that you guys wanted to come down a little earlier, but you are going to have to give us a week to get everything in order and hidden away so that she doesn't suspect anything. When are you going to tell her?" Esme said.
"Well I would like to wait for the morning of the ceremony. I was thinking about taking Bella out for breakfast and perhaps going to a spa for the rest of the day for some couple's treatments. I was going to have her dress ready for when we change into our 'street' clothes and then just asking her."
There was dead silence and Edward fisted his hair in frustration, "Say something! Is that too much? Lex, what do you think? Will Mom hate it?"
"Daddy, (sniff) that's really sweet. (sniff) Mom will love it…."
Edward frowned, "Is something wrong, Sweepea?"
Esme laughed tearfully, "No you silly boy! It's just that it is a romantic gesture."
Alice promised to report back to Edward on the new spa and after a few minutes, they said goodbye.
Edward would receive updates via email, so that Bella's suspicions would not be aroused.
Edward drove home shortly afterwards and when he arrived home, he changed quickly and then joined Bella and Max for a day beside the swimming pool.
Saturday came quickly and after dropping Max at Seth's house for a play date, Bella and Edward drove to their counseling session with Paul.
Once again, Bella had her solo session, before Edward had his and then they joined together for their second couple's session.
Paul smiled as Bella walked into the office and immediately she curled up next to Edward.
"Well, it looks as if the two of you have done some reconnecting this week?"
They both nodded.
"How did the homework go?"
Bella answered first, "I think that we both found it beneficial," she looked at Edward who was nodding in agreement.
"We have ended up sharing our journals a few times this week."
"Have you been able to abstain from sex?"
Bella blushed furiously and Edward answered, "Yes, but hopefully you are lifting that ban!"
Paul chuckled, "How have the exercises in intimacy gone? Bella, would you like to answer?"
Bella took a sip of water as she tried to get past her embarrassment, "Well, it's been great actually. Having Edward touch me deliberately has just reinforced my love and appreciation for him."
"You mentioned the word 'deliberately'. Would you like to elaborate on that? And talk to Edward."
Bella turned to face Edward, "This week, you have seemed to touch me in a deliberate way, I know that I'm not explaining this well, but you haven't touched me out of habit. Every time you kiss me or hold my hand or play with my hair has been a conscious decision and it is almost an intoxicating experience."
Edward smiled as he reached out and gently stroked her jaw. Bella's eyes rolled at his touch.
"I am so aroused, Edward. This week has been amazing; every touch of your hand or your lips has kept me in a constant state of arousal. I know that this won't last, but I am enjoying every minute of it."
They stared into each other's eyes until Paul cleared his throat and then they looked at him almost surprised that he was still in the room.
"Well now, this is great but I want you both to remember that what you are experiencing is that 'Honeymoon' phase and that Bella is right and it will pass,"
"Hang on, Edward. I'm not saying this to be a 'Debbie downer' but you know that this isn't really your lives. Firstly you only have Maxwell at home. Well in a few weeks you are back to 'normal' as the parents of seven children – four of whom still live at home. Nicholas is going off to college and Bella; you are going to have to deal with that again while preparing yourself for Sam's senior year and then it will just be the twins and Max at home, except for holidays and such."
Edward felt Bella's hand tighten around his to the point of pain.
Paul went on, "Your relationship isn't 'magically' fixed, guys. All that you have done is to give yourselves a vital time out to remember what you have together – what you are together and how amazing your relationship can be – if you work on it."
Over the rest of the hour they talked about how they would keep growing as a couple and he encouraged them to make a one year plan and a five year plan that would list their individual goals and their aspirations and goals as a couple and as a family.
With twenty minutes to go, Paul brought up the one topic that they had not touched on, "Now, before I let you guys get on with your weekend, there is one thing that we haven't talked about and that is your D/s relationship."
Edward took a deep breath while Bella squirmed in her seat.
Paul looked down at his notes quickly, "Have you been back into the playroom?"
"No," Edward answered quietly.
"Have you collared Bella at all?"
Edward shook his head in the negative.
Paul pursed his lips, "Can I ask you why not?"
Edward frowned, "With everything that has happened it doesn't seem like an appropriate time right now, Paul. Surely we need to get our marriage relationship sorted before we venture into that?"
Edward didn't understand what Paul was getting at. After talking with Garrett, Edward had decided to take some time to discover what he wanted out of a D/s relationship with Bella. He just didn't feel that their former relationship, with all his rules and procedures was what either of them wanted or needed anymore.
Edward became aware that Paul was talking to Bella.
"…and have you discussed your needs with Edward?"
Edward looked at his wife and he noticed that she was looking at the floor and chewing on her lip as she compiled an answer. He wanted to ask Paul to repeat his question, but something stopped him from interrupting Bella's train of thought.
Bella sat back and wiped her hands on the legs of her jeans. She was nervous because in the past week they hadn't discussed their alternative lifestyle because they had spent their time making out, heavy petting and just reconnecting with each other! Bella was embarrassed to admit this to Paul, but she definitely didn't regret the making out or heavy petting!
"Um, we haven't really spoken about going back into the playroom, but I know that we need to do that soon." She said quietly.
Paul looked from one to the other, "Okay, well, I can see that this is something that has to be addressed immediately."
Paul saw the couple begin to fidget and he decided to put them out of their discomfort.
He stood up, "Come on," he said as he stood up and picked up his wallet and keys after locking his notes away in his filing cabinet.
"Where are we going?" Bella asked in a high pitched voice as she clutched Edward's hand.
Paul watched as Edward put his arm around Bella's waist and pulled her into his side. He leaned down and kissed the side of Bella's head before he whispered something in her ear.
Paul couldn't hear what he said, but whatever it but whatever it worked.
Bella took a deep breath before she looked into Edward's eyes and gave him a nod.
"Let's go." Paul urged.
He led them out of his offices and down a pathway where he punched a code into a hidden panel and opened a heavy wooden gate.
Bella looked around, "Wow, this is beautiful!"
Paul smiled, "Thanks, Emily and I love to spend time in our garden. I guess you could say that our cats and gardens are our babies."
Paul and Emily had chosen not to have children and neither regretted their decision. Paul walked around the single story, ultra modern home that was all glass, black steel and wood to a beautiful room in the back of the landscaped garden that was half hidden.
"This is our meditation room and a great place for a quiet chat. Take your shoes off and come inside." Paul said as he put his shoes on the wooden deck.
Bella looked around. The room was simple and sleek, she saw a door off the main room but otherwise the room was sparkly furnished.
There was a fireplace at one end of the room where two sofas were positioned facing each other. The rest of the room was bare except for a stone statue and a large rug.
Paul sat on one sofa and Bella and Edward sat down facing him.
"Okay, in here we are not doctor and patients but fellow Doms and sub. This space is a completely private and free space and I want you to be honest with me and with each other, is that clear?"
Edward and Bella nodded.
"Good. Bella, Edward, I know that in-between having your children; you used to have a healthy and active D/s relationship. Am I right?"
"That's right." Edward answered while Bella nodded.
"Okay, so Bella, do you know what you want from that lifestyle now? Do you still want to be a submissive?"
Bella stole a quick glance at Edward and she was relieved to see that he was eager for her answer.
"Yes, I think that I know what I want from BDSM and I need to be a submissive."
Paul looked at Edward, "Edward? Same question."
Edward took a deep breath, "Well, um, we have only touched on the subject but I know that I am a Dominant and although I've locked that part of me away for a long time, it is who I am. As for what I want, well, to be honest, I need to give that some thought. Bella is the perfect submissive for me, but I'm not sure about the rest of it."
Edward felt Bella tense next to him and without giving it a thought he put his hand on her leg to calm her.
"Baby, I just feel as if I am past the phase of wanting you to kneel at my feet or keep your gaze lowered at all times, or have us in D/s mode at set times. I am past the bullshit trappings of BDSM with the play parties and the public humiliation and public sex etcetera. I want to explore the deeper side of this lifestyle with you."
Edward looked at Bella, "I love you and it would thrill me beyond belief to be your Master but I don't want the bullshit. If we want to play with toys or implements, we can do that, but I love your submission to me in everyday life. It's just not all about sex anymore."
He looked across at Paul, "Is this making any sense to you?"
Paul nodded slowly, "It makes perfect sense, Edward. You have matured as a Dominant and while you are both very sexual people and I have no doubt that you will continue to dominate in that area, you are looking past what the world sees as BDSM. The whips, handcuffs, leather masks are just 'trimmings on the tree' if you will, what truly sets you apart is what is inside of you."
Paul noticed that Bella had not said anything and when he looked at her, he noticed that she looked glassy eyed.
"Bella, are you okay?"
Paul looked over Edward's shoulder and he smiled, "There's Emily. Please excuse me for a moment; I'm going to arrange for some refreshments. Would you like a beer or a glass of wine?"
"I wouldn't mind a beer if you have it."
"Um, just a wine and soda water, please."
The silence hung around them after Paul left until Edward decided to break it. He was nervous because he had no idea what Bella was going to say to him.
"Please tell me what you are thinking, Baby Girl."
Bella let out a shaky breath, "I didn't know that you felt that way. How long have you felt like this?"
Edward slipped from his seat and knelt in front of Bella. He took her hands in his as he gazed into her expressive eyes.
"Bella, I didn't know that I felt this way until Paul asked the question. I mean, I loved the way we were before, but that's not us anymore. I'm not saying that we will never 'play' again. I just don't want that to be the focus of our D/s time. I don't want you to put yourself below me. I love you and you are my equal and your submission to me is a precious gift that I never want to take for granted. Can we work this out?"
Bella looked at the breathtakingly handsome face that she loved so much. Over the years, Edward had matured and if possible he had grown even better-looking, but it was the light in his deep green eyes that arrested Bella's heart. She saw love and a hint of fear.
Was he afraid that she would reject him? The thought was almost laughable. She needed him as much as she needed air.
Bella put her hand out and ran her fingers through his wild hair. She smiled at the where the burnt bronze was fading to a fine silver.
She looked down at him and smiled, "Edward, as long as we keep talking, we can work anything out. I only ever want to take this journey with you…" her eyes sparkled mischievously, "Sir."
Edward laughed loudly, "Bella, Bella, I didn't say that I was going to put the paddle away, did I?" he teased and Bella blushed furiously as she giggled.
"Well, that's good news!"
Edward's mouth popped open and Bella laughed harder.
Paul walked in to find Edward sitting on the floor at Bella's feet while Bella combed her hands through his hair as they whispered to each other and exchanged a kiss.
Paul cleared his throat and put the tray that he was carrying onto a low table.
"Have you resolved anything or are you just making out like teenagers?"
Edward and Bella laughed as they pressed their foreheads together before Edward got up with a grimace as he grumbled about his 'old knees'.
Bella snorted, "There is nothing 'old' about your knees or any other parts of your anatomy, Mister, take it from me."
Paul laughed, "Well it seems that you have had a talk that went very well. Wait, you did talk, right?"
Edward nodded as he raised his beer in salute, "Yes Paul, we talked." He looked at Bella, "And I think that it went very well."
Bella nodded as she picked up her glass and tapped the side to Edward's beer bottle, "It went very well indeed."
"Well, that's great but now, you still have some things to work out, so I would like to give you some homework." Edward face palmed and Bella groaned while Paul chuckled, "You are both such fine examples to your offspring, but luckily, I think that you are going to enjoy this homework."
He paused until Bella threatened to toss her half empty glass at him, "So, this week… you are clear to take your intimacy to the next level – if you want to." The looks on the couples faces was enough to make Paul want to 'hunt' Emily down and make love to her with complete abandon.
"Hang on," he said as Edward almost jumped to his feet, "sit down again, Don Juan." Edward sat down with a pout. Bella licked her lips as she gave him a sidelong glance. Fuck, he was so damn sexy! She wondered if they could get away with a quick fuck in the car…
Bella jumped as Paul called her name. "Y-yes?"
Paul just shook his head and ignored the guilty look on her face and Edward's smirk. "Besides that," he waved his hand as Edward's grin broadened, "I want you to write down five ideas each of how you are going to keep your relationship on track. This can be a small gesture, like making your partner lunch, or sending a text in the middle of the day to something grand and extravagant, like a breakaway weekend for the two of you or playing hooky for a day."
They nodded and Paul was pleased to see that they both looked excited.
"One last thing – Edward, I would like you to initiate some D/s time this week. It doesn't have to end in sex or even be of a sexual nature."
After that they said goodbye and left.
"Would you like to go out to lunch with me?" Edward asked as they pulled away from the clinic.
Bella was staring out of the window but she turned at the sound of his voice and looked at him with excitement.
"Babe; do you trust me?"
Edward nodded, "Of course I do."
"Good!" she said as she pulled out her phone.
Four hours later, Edward handed over his black credit card to a man that Seth introduced to them only as "Murphy".
Luckily for Edward and Bella, 'Murphy' was one of the best in the business and he was happy to let Edward and Bella in through the back of his shop into the private room.
Murphy smiled at Edward and his gold tooth shone. Edward reached out and shook his hand. "Lucky that you are both right handed – if there is any trouble, give me a call. Any family of Seth's and all that – give the D.A. 'what up' and tell him that I need to do his other shoulder!"
They walked to their car and Edward drove over the Golden Gate Bridge before Bella spoke, "So that is my first gesture."
Edward looked at her, "And mine!"
Bella nodded, "Okay, yes, and yours. You didn't feel pressured to do it, did you?"
Edward shook his head and held out his right hand and Bella took it, "It is one of the most touching things that you have ever done for me, Baby and I wanted to show you that I meant it as well."
"I promise to never let you go." Edward said as they lay in bed, sated and replenished.
Bella gave a half giggle, "I promise to hog tie you if you ever try to get away from me!"
"This is my new favorite game." Edward said.
"Hmm, mine as well. Max wasn't very happy when he realized that they were not stick on tattoos."
Edward laughed and he pulled her closer to his side, "Sleep tight baby girl."
"Promise," Bella replied.
Bella grinned sleepily as she looked down at her left wrist that was covered with a piece of surgical plaster. She could just see the word that was tattooed there – it matched the word that Edward had tattooed on the side of his left hand, except that hers began with a 'small' letter as opposed to the 'capital' letter that Edward's began with. The intention of the word was clear to both of them when Bella had looked at Edward in Murphy's tattoo parlor.
"Edward, I want to do this to remind myself and you that I have promised to never hide from you again". Edward had looked at what Murphy had designed and he nodded, "Hey, Murphy, can you do something like that for me? Because Bella, I promise to never assume that I can make decisions for us without consulting you first."
The word that they chose was 'promise'.
A/N: Well, what do you think? Things are looking up for our favorite couple and in the next chapter there will be a D/s session! And some good, old fashioned lemony goodness.
Thank you so much to everyone who is reading this story. I must apologize for not updating sooner, but I sliced my thumb open a week ago and seven stitches later, I was in no state to type or write, please forgive me.
Till next time,