Bella's touch was soothing, like the soft, tranquil lap of waves on a beach. Edward could feel his breathing even out and his rushing pulse slow as Bella's fingers traced soft lines across his back.
They'd held each other in a tight embrace at the piano stool for what seemed like an eternity, as Edward cried for his dead mother once again. Hearing Tony talk about his mother had brought everything that Edward thought was buried deep back to the surface again.
"I... don't even know where to start trying to make sense of all this. I'm kinda mad at him, you know?"
This was what Bella was afraid of. Edward had put the past behind him and was content with his life. Edward considered Carlisle and Esme to be his mom and dad.
"Are you mad at me?" Bella whispered.
He shook his head. "No, baby. Tony shouldn't have asked you to intervene. I don't agree with how he handled all this. I just... I don't know, Bella. You know him better than I do. What do you think about all this?"
Bella mulled over her words, her feelings conflicted on the situation. She could see both sides. Tony, a man who'd met someone that reminded him of a ghost from his past, had been determined to find out if he had a long lost son. Edward, who'd never mentioned finding his father, and had been content to continue on in life without finding out who his real father was.
"I can't tell you what to think, and I can't judge you for never wanting to know who he was before. But if it was me in your situation now, I'd want to know. I get that you're mad at him. His motivations for finding you were completely selfish. But don't you want to know? Maybe it was an accident. Maybe it was fate. I can't imagine walking away now."
"I can't, either. I mean... What will Carlisle and Esme think?"
"They love you, Edward. They're your family. But you're a grown man. They'll understand if you want to get to know your father."
"My... father... This is all just so hard to believe. Who would have thought-a summer fling and he didn't even know my mother was pregnant. Then my father turns out to be your boss. I... Can't even get my head around it."
"So, um... are you gonna get the DNA test?" Bella lifted her head from where it had been resting on his shoulder and peered at him through sleep-heavy eyes. His cool lips brushed her nose in a gesture so sweet despite his anguish.
"I guess so. Although, I think it would just be a formality at this point. I mean, it was there in black and white; the photograph of the two of them..." Edward swallowed the lump in his throat. "Sitting across from him was like looking in a mirror, only twenty years from now. It was so weird."
Bella nodded. "It was weird. I can see the resemblance. You're so like your mom, but I can see little small things in your face that make you and Tony almost identical." She pressed her lips to his nose, returning his earlier gesture, which made one side of his mouth turn up in a small smile.
Edward hummed in response, tilting his head back and staring at the ceiling. "I think..."
"What? Whatever you need, I'm here," said Bella.
"I think we should just go out. I need to not think about this now. I just want to spend to some time with you and put this out of my head for a few hours."
"Of course, babe. Whatever you want." Bella smiled and pressed her lips to his, snaking her fingers up his shoulders and into the soft, thick hair at the back of his neck. Edward returned the kiss and pulled Bella closer, his fingers squeezing her lower back over the thin, cotton sheet.
Edward broke the kiss and dropped his forehead on to Bella's shoulder. "How did I get so lucky, finding you? Everything's better with you. Thank you for coming with me today."
"You're wrong, Edward. I'm the lucky one. You look at me sometimes like I'm the only girl in the world." Bella's eyes brimmed with tears as the reality of the words settled in the air around them.
"You are. You're the only girl in my world, Bella."
The music throbbed in Bella's ears, the air heavy with disco smoke. The musk of sweaty, writhing bodies crammed together on the dim dance floor wafted through her nose. Bella pushed her hair off her forehead and fanned her face with a coaster as she waited for Edward to return with their drinks.
After spending most of the late afternoon in bed, Edward had welcomed Bella's suggestion of getting dressed up and going out dancing. He wanted to enjoy some time with his girl - away from the absolute tornado that was going through his mind right now. Edward reminded Bella that before the revelations of the past twenty four hours, he'd been out of state for the past week. They'd missed each other and both a had long, stressful week. Dinner and dancing seemed like the perfect way to let loose on a Saturday night and provide a fun-filled distraction for them both.
After just an hour of dancing, the balls of Bella's feet throbbed and burned in her narrow-toed stiletto heels, and her heart pounded from the exertion. A warm glow spread across her cheeks, matching the warm glow in her heart. The grin widened across her face as she watched Alice and Jasper move around the dancefloor. They had joined Bella and Edward for the evening, and Bella felt like a giddy teenager on a double date. Another first for her.
Edward's mood had appeared to have lightened over the course of the evening, and Bella was not concerned about the one beer bottle that he'd made last the entire time they'd been there. She knew that as much as Edward would be struggling to get his head around the revelations of the day, the last thing he would do was drown his sorrows in alcohol. There was a time that she would have herself, but Bella was past that.
"Your ass is fucking perfect in those jeans, baby." The deep timbre of Edward's voice in Bella's ear elicited a gasp from her, causing her to tighten her grip on the railing of the balcony she'd been leaning on. Edward pressed his body flush to hers and buried his face in her hair, breathing in the sweet, mouthwatering scent of vanilla and honey.
"Jeez, Edward! You scared me." Bella leaned back into his long, lean form, a contented sigh falling from her lips as he grasped her hips and pulled her closer, his fingers dancing along the waistband of her skinny jeans. The thin sliver of flesh displayed between her jeans and halter neck top rose up in goosebumps at his touch. Edward latched his lips onto her exposed shoulder, lavishing her skin with kisses.
"I can't wait to get you home, pretty girl, and love you all night long," Edward whispered as he pushed his denim-clad hardness into her lower back. Bella's answering whimper made it clear to Edward that she was in agreement with him. "Come on," he whispered as he pulled her by the hand over to the booth they'd been sitting at earlier. Edward pulled Bella into his lap, squeezing her thigh as she giggled.
"You seem happier now." She kissed his cheek, loving the way his eyes lit up like a child. "You having fun?"
"I always have fun with you, you for this," Edward said as he pulled her closer. He was addicted to the feel of her body against his. Her touch was like a comfort blanket, soothing the ache in his heart. His head was all over the place, but he resolved to enjoy this night with Bella and his friends. "We should take a trip, baby."
"Yeah?" Bella made no attempt to hide her shock at Edward's words. Between their recent trip to Forks, Edward's work trips back and forth to LA, and Bella's busy work schedule, she had no idea when they'd find the time to take another trip.
"Don't sound so surprised," he said on a laugh. "We need a vacation. A real one. I'm thinking sandy beaches and clear blue water." He paused and leaned in to kiss her neck, loving how she shivered. He laughed against her skin. "Those fruity drinks with the cute little umbrellas."
Bella grinned. It did sound like heaven. She could almost feel the warm sand between her toes and smell the salty sea air.
"What do you guys look so happy about?" Alice's voice interrupted Bella's daydreaming as she flopped down opposite them in the booth, closely followed by Jasper, who carried two tall glasses of water. Alice began to gulp down one of the glasses like water was going out of fashion. Bella realised that her and Edward were staring into each other's faces and grinning like lovesick fools. She marveled at the turn around in both their moods, and, for the millionth time in their relationship, wanted to pinch herself to check that it wasn't all a dream.
The way this man made her feel.
"We were talking about taking a vacation," said Bella, her heart warming even more when she saw the way that Alice and Jasper shared sweet touches and stolen smiles across the table.
"Ooh, nice. Where do you think you'll go? When? I always wanted to go to Scotland. You should go there. I mean, I don't think they get sunbathing weather but it would be more like a sightseeing trip, you know..." Bella hummed in contentment as Alice regaled them with tales of her travels before she started college.
Her heart felt so full, like she could burst.
Happiness was this.
She opened one eye. The room was dark, and she closed the eye quickly again, thinking she'd been dreaming.
Maybe she wasn't dreaming. "Mmhm."
"Come on, get up," Edward whispered. As Bella hovered on the edge of awareness, a feather-light touch skimmed her face. She opened her eyes to find Edward kneeling beside the bed, watching her. "Come with me."
"Why are we whispering? And why are you waking me at-" she glanced at the light up clock on the bedside cabinet before groaning. "-6am on a Sunday morning?"
Edward leaned closer and kissed her forehead, then her eyelids and then her nose. Bella was suddenly very awake. "Come on, I want to show you something. Trust me, baby."
Bella sighed, climbing out of bed, pulling the sheet with her. Edward wore nothing but his pyjama pants and carried Bella's thick robe. "Here, put this on. Come on."
He pulled her by the hand, creeping quietly through his dark apartment and out the front door.
"Where are we going?"
Bella smiled. While they didn't spend a lot of time at Edward's place, she cherished the few times he'd brought her up on the roof of his apartment building. The view of the city was spectacular from so high up, and they'd had some of their most intimate heart-to-hearts up here.
The soft slap of her bare feet echoed through the stairwell as they ascended one flight, and Edward opened the door on the rooftop.
Goosebumps rose on Bella's skin and she shivered, pulling the robe tighter around her body. The ground was cold beneath her feet, the concrete damp from the night's rainfall. Despite the chill that rose up from her feet and coursed through her body, her heart warmed when she saw that Edward had laid out a breakfast picnic of sorts.
Two adirondack chairs sat side-by-side, with a small patio table in between. A french press of coffee and two cups sat atop the table, along with a plate of bagels, croissants, and pains-au-chocolat. Bella's mouth watered at the sight of the beautiful pastries.
"Breakfast, my lady?" Edward pulled out a chair and fluffed up the cushion that lay on it, before ushering Bella into the chair. Bella couldn't help but giggle at Edward's horrendous attempt at a British accent as she sat down. Edward pulled a blanket from his own chair and draped it over Bella's lap, tucking her in. Their eyes met as he pushed the hair away from her face and let his thumb linger on her face, tracing her cheekbone.
"Beautiful," he whispered, as he leaned in and placed a soft kiss on her forehead, before sitting down in his own chair. "Coffee?" He pushed down the plunger on the pot.
Bella nodded as she reached for a croissant. "This is beautiful. What's all this for?"
Edward smiled as he poured the coffee. "I wanted to eat breakfast with you and watch the sunrise." He set the coffee pot down, and took a deep breath before continuing. "I've missed you, Bella. I've missed us. The last few weeks have been kinda crazy, especially this weekend, and I just wanted to spend some quiet, quality time with you." He chuckled as he slid a coffee cup across the table to her.
"I'm sorry it's so early. But we have all day. We can go back to bed if you want. I just wanted to watch the sunrise with you."
Bella took a sip of her coffee and smiled as the liquid warmed her insides. She couldn't find it in herself to be annoyed at the early wake up call, despite the fact that they'd barely slept the previous night. She felt her cheeks heat at the memory of the rough, hard loving: the way Edward's strong arms had held her up against the bedroom wall; the way his fingers dug into her hips as he'd taken her from behind; the way he'd sucked on her skin so hard he'd left marks all over her body.
Almost as if he could read her mind, Edward smirked, reaching across the table and running a finger down her forearm. He loved how her skin pebbled under his touch.
"Are you sore?" His voice lowered, taking on an deep, husky tone.
Bella responded with a smirk of her own. "In the best possible way. You know I love it."
Edward chuckled and grasped her hand, linking their fingers together, letting out a deep sigh of contentment.
"I do," he murmured. "I do."
They ate in relative silence, their hands remaining joined across the table. They watched as the sky brightened and the sun slowly crept over Lake Michigan, flashes of coral and orange mingling with perfect blue as twilight faded. Bella watched in awe at the beautiful colours that flashed through the sky, realising that she'd never truly taken the time to appreciate the beauty of sunrise in Chicago. Though her early morning runs were a thing of the past, she couldn't ever recall seeing such a sight.
Fluffy marshmallow patches of white dotted along the horizon, random shapes floating along with stripes of yellow, peach and red. "It's so beautiful," she whispered.
"Right? Grandpa Cullen used to bring me up here all the time when I used to stay here. Anytime Carlisle and Esme went out of town for a weekend, Emmett and I used to love coming up here. Gramps taught us how to play poker when we were like, twelve, which Mom wasn't too happy about. We'd play out here on the balcony and watch the sunset. Emmett was always an early riser, so he'd drag me up here to watch the sun come up again. When Gramps passed away and left me this place, I sat out here every morning for a month, trying to remember the sound of his voice." Edward rubbed his chest, right over the place where his heart was, grimacing, as if his heart ached.
"I was scared I would forget," he whispered, his voice cracking with emotion. "Like I forgot Lizzie's voice."
Bella's heart broke a little at the vulnerability in Edward's voice. In that moment she remembered a time when he'd told her they weren't so different. It wasn't until now that she realised how parallel their worlds were, how alike their pain and heartache was.
They'd been two jagged-edged halves of a whole; two chipped, scarred sides of the same coin. Damaged, fractured, and broken in some places. Only when they'd found each other had their fragmented pieces fitted together, they became like a moth flitting around a bright light, fluttering here and there, eventually settling, contented and at peace.
Bella felt peace. She felt hope. She had delight in her new found confidence, something that she felt proud of achieving on her own, but that she wouldn't have had the courage to pursue if it were not for a nudge in the right direction from this beautiful, selfless man who had the kindest heart.
Her heart was slowly healing, the scars from her past slowly fading with each new day, but she suspected that underneath Edward's cool, confident-bordering-on-cocky facade, lay a broken, scared little boy, still haunted by the past.
How much more could either of them take? How long before one of them would crack under the pressure?
"I forgot her voice," Edward whispered. "I don't remember a lot about those first few months without her. Maybe my mind blocked it out. Then it was, I don't know, a few months later maybe, that I realised I couldn't remember what she sounded like."
Bella was lost for words, and guilt settled deep in the pit of her stomach. Edward had always known the right thing to say when she was upset, when she had recounted the events of her past. Right now, she couldn't think of a single thing to say to soothe Edward.
"Edward, I..." She trailed off, the words tasting like acid in her mouth. "Sorry" didn't seem adequate. No words were adequate. Edward squeezed her hand.
"It's weird, you know? I thought I'd put this behind me." He let out a humourless chuckle. "I guess I'm more messed up than I thought I was."
"I think that it's always going to be difficult. You went through something really traumatic. You went to therapy. You learned to deal with it." Bella paused, taking another sip of her coffee.
"What's happened with Tony has been a huge shock. And him talking about your mom has opened old wounds. It's a whole new trauma to deal with. You haven't processed it yet. Give it time. It takes time. You told me it takes time doing the right things. I went for years doing the wrong thing, papering over the cracks. Burying my pain."
Bella studied Edward's face, cautious of her next words.
"Maybe... therapy... maybe it would help. To talk to someone again. You were the one that told me there was no shame in asking for help."
Edward blew out a deep breath and chuckled, this time his lips curling up into a half smile.
"Well it can't make things any worse, can it?"
Bella returned his smile. "No, it can't."
"You're the best, Bella. You know that, right?" Edward tugged on her hand and motioned to his lap. Bella stood from her own chair, bringing the blanket with her and folded herself into his lap. They fit together perfectly, like two jigsaw pieces.
She burrowed her head into the curve between his shoulder and his neck and revelled in the sensation of their skin pressed together. She inhaled his clean, woodsy scent and smiled to herself.
"I mean it," he whispered. "I know ours hasn't been the most conventional or functional of relationships. I know we're both a little messed up. I know it won't all be sunshine and roses. But I love you, Bella. So damn much. And someday I'm gonna marry you."
Bella's heart hammered in her chest at his words, but in a good way. There was a time, after her divorce, that she would have said she'd never marry again. Once had been enough.
But it had never been enough. It had never been enough because it hadn't been right. Bella knew she couldn't change her past mistakes. Her first marriage had been wrong, and deep down in her heart she'd know it at the time.
This was her second chance.
She smiled up at Edward. "I love you too. So much. And I want that too. I want it all with you. I'm all in."
"Good," he whispered. Edward leaned in, and Bella met him halfway, their lips connecting in a soft, slow kiss. "Because there's no getting rid of me now." He tightened his arms around her and they lay there for a few minutes, watching the sky, sharing soft kisses and light touches.
Between the easy thump-thump of Edward's heartbeat in Bella's ear, the way the rough pad of his fingers traced light circles around her wrist, and his other hand stroking her hair, Bella found herself being lulled into a light slumber.
hi all! Many thanks for the reviews on the last chapter. So nice to hear from some of you regular reviewers! And to everyone else, thank you so much for the alerts and follows, even if you just lurk, I'm just glad people are reading.
Thank you to my lovely girls K and Em for the awesome pre-reading/beta job. This chapter sucked without them.
In other news, my laptop broke AGAIN. I'm so done with that piece of crap. Posting this from my ipad so I hope the formatting is okay. The next chapter is half done, but will depend on how much patience I have typing on the ipad. Fingers crossed for this time next week.
See you all soon !
Love, Meg xo