Taste of the Forbidden II
Title: Family Services
Genre: Drama, Romance
Paring: Edward and Bella
Word Count: 9621
Summary: Teen mother Isabella finds herself in a precarious situation. The person, who has given her and her baby a home, has passed away. The landlord wants her out at all costs. Insert DCFS worker Edward Cullen. What happens when he steps over the line of his job? What happens when Isabella is more to him than he expected? A/H, M
Disclaimer: All the Twilight stuff belongs to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
I sit at my desk looking over my case files as I eat my lunch.
"Edward, we have a new case which was called in this morning. Could up pop along today and check things out?"
I look up at my supervisor and nod my head. "What do we have?"
Mrs. Cope sighs and takes the seat across from me. "A baby girl around eighteen months old. Name is believed to be River Smith. Mother is believed to be Isabella Smith, age uncertain but around late teens. They are currently living in a house by an agreement with a Mrs. E. Masen. Mrs. Masen passed away three days ago. I'm trying to find more information on where Isabella came from, but so far I've come up short.
"The person who called didn't give their name. They claimed that Isabella was selling herself and doing every drug under the sun. They also said that she was leaving River in the home unattended. They claim the child is not being fed, eats out of the trash, is always dirty, and possibly abused by some of her mother's johns. Also, she wasn't on the lease, so eviction papers are being served to remove her as a squatter."
I sigh, taking the file and shaking my head. "I'll head there now and see what's happening. Have you been able to find out who the landlord is?"
Mrs. Cope nods her head. "Owned by Tanya Denali, however I haven't been able to get ahold of her."
I grab my jacket as I hold my sandwich in my mouth. The sooner I get there, the better, from the sounds of it.
I drive to the address that's on my file. Knowing there's a young child in the house, I only tap lightly on the door.
It doesn't take too long for a young woman to open the door a little.
"Hello, Miss Smith," I say, and I notice she frowns and nods her head. "I'm Edward Cullen, and I work with Department of Children and Family Services," I say as I show her my badge. "May I come in?"
Miss Smith bites her lip, looks at my badge, and nods her head. She closes the door to take off the chain before reopening the door.
"Am I—did I do something wrong?" she asks shakily.
I look her up and down. Well, it's clear that she's young and looks tired and upset, but I can't see any obvious signs of drug use.
"Could we take a seat?"
Again, she nods her head and moves into the living room of the house. I turn, closing the front door before following her. She sits on the very edge of the sofa and continues to bite her lip nervously.
"We received a phone call about the safety and welfare of your daughter River. I'm here only to check things over and follow up on the information we've been given."
She looks at me wide-eyed. Before she can say anything, I hear a small cry. Miss Smith's head turns immediately in the direction of where the cry came from.
"I'm sorry, but I need to get River." Miss Smith stands up and walks toward the stairs.
"May I come with you?"
Miss Smith turns, looks at me, and nods her head. I follow her up the stairs and into a bedroom.
"Hey, baby, did you have a good sleep?" Miss Smith coos at the child.
I smile as I see her baby girl hold out her hands. "Ma-ma-ma-ma," the child babbles.
Standing at the door observing Miss Smith with River, it's very clear that she loves her daughter.
"River, are you hungry? Do you want your lunch now?"
River squeezes her fingers in a motion for her to be picked up. I note that the child and the bed appear to be clean.
"She's not been well—they said it's just a cold and to let her sleep if off. She's not had lunch yet—can we talk in the kitchen while I make it?"
I nod with a smile, trying to get Miss Smith to relax. Even with the reassurance my smile should give her, it doesn't seem to work.
"May I take a quick look around the house?"
Miss Smith turns and looks at me and again just nods her head. I take a look in each room, and nothing stands out to me as a concern. I make my way back to the kitchen and find Miss Smith feeding River. Again, I stay in the background and observe.
I don't know why, but I know deep down this is just a kid that found herself pregnant as a teen. I don't think any of the tip call was accurate. I really can't see this girl leaving her daughter unattended, and I intend to help her anyway I can.
"Bella," she says.
I frown, looking at her. "What?"
Her eyes move to mine. "You can call me Bella instead of Miss Smith."
I smile and nod my head at her. "Okay, Bella it is, then. Could I ask you a few questions?"
Her eyes move to her daughter, but she nods her head a little.
"What is your full name?"
Bella keeps her eyes locked on River. "Isabella Marie Dw-Smith."
I look at her, hearing her hiccup on her last name. She's hiding something—but what is yet to be determined.
"What's your date of birth?" I ask as I write my notes on the pad of paper in my hand.
"Thirteenth of September nineteen ninety-four."
That makes her eighteen years and two months.
"What is River's full name and date of birth?"
"Ta-Ta," River says as Bella stops feeding her and then looks at me.
"Sorry, baby, just a minute. River Faith Smith, she was born May the twenty-first of two thousand and eleven—she was a month early."
Again I nod my head and write it down. That makes River a few days shy of a year and a half.
"Do you go to school or work?"
I look up after a few minutes of not hearing a reply.
"Bella?" She looks at me then looks back at River, then wipes the baby's face with a cloth.
"I dropped out of high school when I found out that I was expecting River. I did have a job but was fired yesterday—because I couldn't make it in this week. Elizabeth used to watch River for me so that I could go to work. But she passed away. Hey, do you know what's happening with her? No one would tell me anything. I'd like to pay my last respects to her, if possible. She's all we've had ..." her words trail off.
I shake my head at her. "No, I'm sorry. I don't know anything."
Bella's face falls, and I feel a pang in my chest and the deep desire to help her.
"I could try finding out for you."
Bella takes River out of her high chair and places her on the floor.
"Could you really? Thank you," she says, her voice soft and low.
I nod my head at her and follow her and River into the living room.
"How long is left on the lease for this house?"
She looks at me and frowns. "I'm not sure. Tanya, the lady that owns the house—I paid her yesterday, so I know I'm paid up until the tenth of December. I asked her if I could stay here, and she took my money. I think she'll let me—she's always been really nice."
I look at her and nod my head. "Okay, I think I have enough for right now, but I'll still need to do some more investigating. So if you can write down the name of River's doctor, and any other people who deal with or come in contact with her, that would really help me."
Bella quickly writes out a few names and hands it to me.
"Take this," I say, handing over my business card. I look at her and pull it back before she takes it. I quickly write on the back of the card and hand it back. "This is my cell number on the back—if you need anything, call me. If anything happens, no matter how small, call me. I'll pop back by here next week and let you know how everything is going."
Bella nods her head at me. "Goodbye, Bella."
"Bye, bye," I hear River say.
"Bye, bye, River," I respond, and she smiles at me before going back to play with her toys.
I smile as I open the door, knowing that there are no concerns here. I still have this strange desire that I should stick around and help her out, though.
"What's that?" Bella reaches out and takes the envelope that has been pinned to the door. My heart sinks as she takes the letter out, and I can clearly see the words "court date for eviction."
I reach out to steady Bella before she falls to the floor.
"This can't be happening," she cries.
I practically carry Bella back to the living room and sit her on the sofa. I take the notice from her and read through it. I see that she is considered an intruder because she's not on the lease. The owner of the property is claiming Bella has no right to be in the home. The court hearing date is in twenty-four days.
"Bella, I'll help you find somewhere to move. I will help you. Okay. Just calm down, and take deep breaths." I watch her as the tears fall down her face.
"Mama, up." I turn to see River standing in front of Bella and me.
"Hey, baby," Bella says, trying hard to stop crying as she picks River up. "It's going to be okay, baby—I swear—it's going to be okay."
I move to sit next to them, pulling them both toward me and hugging them. I'm not real sure why, but right now I feel really protective of both of them. I want to call on this landlord who took her money yesterday and ring her worthless neck for the heartless eviction. Sadly, the way the court works, she filed for the eviction before she came here and took money from Bella.
"Bella, I'm going to go back to my office for now. I'll find a place for both of you—I swear I will. Trust me to help you, please."
Bella turns her head and nods.
"I'll come back as soon as I find somewhere for you. You have my number, so call me if you need me—for anything."
I walk away and, for the first time in my three years of working with DCFS, I find it really hard to leave, and not because I'm worried about a child.
"Hi! This is Edward Cullen. Do have space for a mom with an eighteen-month-old?" I rub my face. I've been calling all the different teen mom and family shelters.
"No, sorry—we're at full capacity."
I let out a groan. This is the same reply I've heard all day long.
"Thank for your help," I groan out before hanging up. I look at the clock and see that there's only two hours left. I grab my jacket and head over to Bella's.
I knock on the door; it only takes a few minutes for Bella to answer. When she does, I can see that she's been crying.
"Bella, what's wrong?"
She opens the door, and I'm shocked to see a tall woman standing in the living room.
"Hello," I say, extending my hand. "I'm Edward Cullen. I work with the DCFS. Can I ask why you are here?" I show her my badge when she doesn't shake my hand.
I hear a huff come from the woman. "I'm Miss Denali. I wanted to check on my property. I was hoping Bella and I could come to an understanding—between us—you know, and save the whole going to court thing. I don't think the judge would look too kindly on her being a junkie whore."
I hold back the growl that fires up with her comment. "Miss Denali, I'm asking you as respectfully as I can to please watch your language—there is a child present."
I look down at River, who is playing near Bella's feet, but turn my head and look at Miss Denali as she chuckles.
"Well, she should have thought about that before she spread her legs."
I roll my eyes at her comment before responding. "She has a full calendar month to get out. Don't worry yourself too much over it. I assure you that I will be working with her to find her a more suitable place to live."
Miss Denali raises her eyebrow at me. "I'll be back later, Bella," Miss Denali says as she picks up her bag from the table in front of her. A whimper draws my attention to the bag, and I see a head poke out with a diamond collar around its neck. I tilt my head, trying to make out what the fuck it is, as my eyes follow it all the way out the door.
"Did she have a rat in her bag?" I turn my head as I hear a chuckle coming from Bella.
She shakes her head at me. "No, it was a Chihuahua. Last time she was here, it was wearing a pink dress."
My eyes widen as I look at her. "Seriously?"
She nods her head.
"Mama, mama, mama."
I chuckle, hearing River calling her mom.
"Hey, baby," Bella says as she picks up River.
"Puppy," she shouts and claps her hands.
Bella chuckles at her antics. "The dog had to go home." Bella kisses River's head before looking back at me.
"We were just about to go and make lunch before Tanya came. Would you like to join us?"
I smile and nod my head. "We have chicken salad sandwiches—is that okay?" Bella walks over to me with River still on her hip.
"Yes, that would be great," I say as I look down at both of them. I never noticed yesterday just how small Bella is.
I look toward River who's holding her hands up at me.
I look to Bella, silently asking if it's okay, and she nods her head before passing River over.
"Hi," River says with a squeal.
I chuckle as I follow Bella to the kitchen. "Hi, River."
River gives me a big smile. "Hi," she squeals again.
I sit at the table with River on my lap.
"Can you say Edward?"
River looks at me, so I sound it out a few times for her. "Ed—war—d, Ed—war—d."
"Ewad," she claps.
I give her a big smile. "Well done, River."
Bella sets a plate in front of me. "Come on, River, time to go into your highchair."
I pass her over before seeing there are jugs of water, milk, and orange juice. I pour myself a glass of orange juice.
"What was she over here for, Bella?"
Bella looks around the room, not looking at me.
"Bella, I can't help you if you don't tell me."
Bella looks at me before dropping her eyes to the table. "I'm not a w-h-o-r-e—I only ever has s-e-x once." Her eyes lock back on mine. "Not that you need to know that, but I really ..."
I hold my hand up. "Bella, I don't think you are anything she said you were—please don't worry. I'm here to help you—you and River."
Bella nods her head at me. "She said that she'll give me three hundred if I move out within the next two weeks. She said if I don't, she'll make sure I lose River, and she'll tell the judge I did a lot of damage to her house."
I frown, getting even more pissed at Miss Denali. I rub my face, then take a bite of the sandwich.
"This is so good, Bella," I say, raising the sandwich up. "I'll help you. I'm already looking for a temporary place for you both. And, I'll help find you a permanent place to live. I have some forms with me today that will help get you some support. I'll help you fill them out. We'll get you set up on Food Stamps and Medicaid, as well."
Bella looks at me, nodding her head. "Can we do those when River's sleeping?" I look at her, then River, who turns to give me a big smile.
"Sure—what's her nightly routine?"
"We have dinner at five and then play a little bit 'til around six. I give her a bath and put her down to bed, and around seven, she's asleep," Bella explains.
"Okay, I'll come back tonight."
Bella smiles a real big smile; it makes her whole face light up. We finish our lunch with a few laughs and several smiles from River.
"Bye, Edward," Bella says to me at the door while holding River.
"Bye, bye, Ewad."
I chuckle, looking at River. "Bye, River."
I head out to the rest of the houses I have to visit. As soon as I've done my last visit, I head back to the office to do the paperwork.
"Edward, can you come into my office?"
I walk to Mrs. Cope's office, going through each of my case files and leaving Bella's as the last one to work on.
"Miss Smith's case?" I let out a sigh.
"Isabella. Mom is eighteen and has an eighteen-month-old. I see no signs of neglect. However, there may be a problem with the landlord. I think that Isabella may need help in getting a suitable place to live and help obtaining services from the state."
Mrs. Cope nods her head at me. "So you think it would benefit her if we keep an eye on her for the time being, then?"
I rub my face. "I think we just need to help her get on her feet. As for being a mom, she seems to have that down and is good at it from what I've seen."
Mrs. Cope nods her head. "I'll have to look over your findings, but I think we'll take her on as a case. We'll give it six weeks max before I'll demand we take action. Hopefully, by then, it won't be needed. In order for us to not take action, she must have a place of residency she is not in jeopardy of losing."
I let out a sigh but know that Mrs. Cope is following guidelines. I just hope I'm able to help Bella have everything in order by then.
After a quick staff briefing of the coming week, I am free to leave. I head home and grab a shower and a quick bite to eat before making the short drive to Bella's home, arriving just before seven. I knock on the door; it takes a little bit before Bella answers with a sleeping River in her arms. I look Bella up and down and chuckle, seeing that she has bubbles in her hair. As my eyes scan her top, I notice it's very wet and now see-through.
"Sorry—was bathing her. She likes her bubble baths, but she tired herself out. She fell asleep while I was dressing her."
I nod my head and straighten out my arms. "Why don't you get dried off, and I'll put this one to bed."
Bella looks at me for a few moments before passing River to me. "Thank you, Edward."
I follow Bella with River in my arms until we get upstairs. Bella goes to the room next to River's, and after she gives us another look, she walks into her room.
"You all set for bed, River?" I ask, noticing that she has stirred a little. River lifts her head and looks at me and pats my cheek. I chuckle as her eyelids fall closed. I place a soft kiss on her head and place her in her crib. I cover her up and smile at how cute she looks snuggled up.
I turn on the baby monitor and walk out, leaving the door ajar. I walk back down the stairs and get out the paperwork for Bella.
"Would you like a cup of coffee or something?" I look over and see Bella in slacks and a T-shirt.
"Coffee would be great, Bella."
She gives me a smile and walks off to the kitchen. I stay where I am, getting the papers in the order that I would need them.
It takes little time for Bella to come back with coffee and muffins. We go through each of the forms. I leave off her last name, knowing the one she's given me is not really hers.
"Bella, I know that you've just met me, but you can trust me. I need you to give me your real last name."
I watch as she rubs her head. "I can't—I won't go back to my mom, there's no way—Edward, she—she ..."
I watch as Bella shakes her head and turns away from me. I move to sit next to her; without thought, I run my hand softly across her collarbone and slowly up her neck. My other hand goes to the other side, pushing her hair out of her face as I turn her chin to face me.
"Trust me, I swear—I won't let you down."
I wipe the tears that fall from her eyes.
"My last name is Dwyer."
I smile at her and write it down. "That's everything. Thank you, Bella."
I grab my jacket and the paperwork. "I'll come back over on Monday around two?"
Bella nods her head at me.
"I'm still trying to find out information on Mrs. Masen, and I should have it by then."
Again, Bella nods her head at me but looks worried.
"You're doing great, lil' momma. I really have no concerns. I only—I need to help you and River—please let me?"
Bella lets out a breath. "So you won't take River away from me?"
I shake my head at her. "No, I won't, and I'll be dammed if I'll let anyone take her away from you. Get some rest, Bella. I know you have a lot on your plate, but I'm here to help you out. Remember, and call me anytime you need me."
Two weeks have passed, and I'm still looking for a place for Bella and River to stay. I found out more about the late Mrs. Masen, and Bella was able to pay her last respects to her. Mrs. Masen didn't have any family left, and she left the little that she had to Bella and River.
It's not much, mainly household furnishings and the like, but it means Bella has enough stuff. When I find her a place, she can just move the stuff there. I've found that the more time I spend with them, the more attractive Bella has become to me. I've found myself breaking rules with her—without any thought.
As a social worker, we have many rules for dealing with a case file: no visiting the home causally while off the clock, no drinking or eating with them. These are two of the biggest infractions I've made. I've eaten a meal with her and River every time I've been there. Another rule: no physical contact with them, unless it's for their personal safety. I'm finding myself touching and hugging Bella a lot, and have put River to bed and held her in my arms, hugging and kissing her. But for the life of me, I can't stop myself.
The thing that scares me the most is I don't want to stop—I want more with her. I want to say fuck it and hold her in my arms, kiss her, protect her, make love to her, keep her and make her mine for the rest of our lives. Then there's River; I love holding the girl and have fallen in love with her too. Often when she's in my arms, I think the love I have for her is like a father's love for a daughter.
I roll over in bed and look at the clock; it's one in the morning. I close my eyes, trying hard to fall back to sleep. My phone chimes and I see an unknown number flash up. I wait for a few seconds, and something inside makes me pick up.
"Hello?" I say with apprehension.
"Edward, it's Bella."
I sit straight up, hearing the worry in Bella's voice.
"Bella, what's wrong?" I stand up, looking around for my clothes.
"It's River; she's really warm and won't stop crying. I don't know what to do—I think I need to get her to a doctor and I have no money for a cab."
I put on the first things that come to my hand. "Bella, sit tight—I'm on my way."
I can hear River's cries as soon as I step out of my car. I jog up the stairs, walking straight inside. I flick the switch and frown when nothing happens. It also feel really cold in here. I move quickly, heading upstairs to River's room.
"Bella?" I call out before walking into the room. I find Bella walking around the room with River, who is still crying. I move to take River from Bella. As soon as I do, I can feel how warm she is.
"Okay, Bella, I'm going to take you both to the hospital."
Bella grabs stuff for River and follows me out to my car. She sits in the back, and I put River on her knee as I strap in the car seat. Then I help belt both River and Bella in. I drive as fast and carefully as I can and park as close to the ER as I'm allowed. When I take River out of her car seat, she still feels really warm. After helping Bella out of the car, we walk into the ER together.
I groan, seeing all the people waiting. River, who is curled up in my arms, is still sniffling. Something inside snaps, and I know there is no way I can wait in this waiting room. I sit down, pull out my cell, and call my dad.
"Bella, my dad is a doctor here. I'm going to call him and ask him to come in and have a look at her."
Bella frowns, looking at the other people waiting.
"We'll be here for hours if I don't."
"Hello, Edward. Is everything all right, son?"
I hush River, who begins to whimper. "I'm at the ER; my friend's daughter is sick. She's burning up, and I'm really worried. She's only eighteen months old. Can you help us—please, Dad?"
I hear my father moving around. "Take them to my office, son—I'll be there within a half hour."
I close my cell and walk with River cuddled to my chest as I direct Bella to my father's office.
It doesn't take long for us to get there. Thankfully, one of the night nurses recognizes me and opens the waiting room door for me. Once Bella is sitting, I place River back into her arms.
"Bella, can I ask why there was no electricity or heat on tonight at your house?"
Bella bites her lip and looks up at me.
"Bella, I can help you. I can get them to accept a lower payment, if it was turned off for non-payment. Just tell me, so I can help you."
Bella shakes her head and sighs. "They're in Tanya's name and she had them switched off. I swear, we were paid up. Elizabeth liked to be ahead of things. I called, but they said it didn't matter if I lived there or not, I had to take it up with my landlord. Tanya said she didn't care, and she was not switching it back on."
I rub my head and try to calm myself. "How long?"
Bella looks at the ground. "Four days."
I let out a sigh. "That's why you asked me to come at lunch time?" Bella nods her head.
"Okay. You can't go back there. I'll call the homeless shelters and see if they have space for you both."
Bella begins shaking, saying no over and over again.
I kneel down in front of her. "Bella, tell me what's wrong. I swear, I will help you."
Bella looks deep in my eyes, and I'm met with the strong urge to kiss her. "I was at one when I first had River. There were women hitting their children. Some were taking stuff from others. There was this lady—she didn't have a child, and she tried to take River from me. I can't—I just—I won't go back there."
I lean toward Bella, resting my forehead against hers. "I'll find you somewhere safe to go. I swear I will."
I go to press my lips against hers, but the loud echoing of footsteps and chatter from the hall make me pull back—just in time as my father walks in.
My father spends the next half hour looking over River, determining that she has an inner ear infection. Carlisle calls the pharmacy to get the medication River needs sent up for her.
Thankfully, Carlisle gives River a dose as soon as the nurse brought the meds up to us. We are free to go, and I am both happy and sad about that. Happy because—well, who wants to stay in a hospital? Sad because I don't know where I can take Bella and River. I know they can't go back to their home or to the homeless shelter. There is a voice in my head telling me to take them home with me. Luckily, the realistic side of my brain knows that isn't a good idea.
I look at Bella in my review mirror. "Yeah?"
I watch her biting her lip before she begins to speak to me. "Did I do something wrong? I mean, are you upset with me?"
I turn my head to look at her. "What? No!"
"Can you please look at the road!"
I turn my head back around as Bella keeps talking.
"It's just that you have been really quiet, and you look a bit stressed."
I let out a breath. "I'm just worried about you and River. I can't take you back to that house. It's too cold, and you have to have power and heat. I'm just stuck as to where I can take you so I know that you are safe and comfortable." I feel Bella's eyes on me the whole time I'm speaking.
"You don't have to worry about us. It was just River and me for a while in the beginning. I swear, I will take care of her. As much as I love her and want to see her grow—I'd give her up before she could get hurt—I'm not so selfish or stupid that I would risk her life."
I start to feel my heart getting tugged at the thought of Bella giving up her daughter because she had no other choice. I won't let it come that. If need be, I'll take her to my home. I could even take them to my mom and dad's. There's also Uncle Charlie who has the apartment above his garage for rent.
It's like a light bulb went off inside my head. Uncle Charlie's garage apartment! Why the hell didn't I think of that in the first place?
"Bella, I'm going to take you to a hotel. I know a place that's cheap, clean, and safe." Bella looks at me, frowns a little, but nods her head.
I take Bella home to pack enough stuff to last her and River for four days before I take her to a decent hotel that I know has a kitchenette. Bella's mouth drops open as we walk in.
"Close your mouth, lil' momma, you're fine. Don't you worry—I'll be paying."
Bella looks at me, and I grin at her. She stops for a few seconds, then shakes her head and looks away from me. I secure the room for the next four days and hand Bella the key card. The whole way to the room, Bella remains really quiet.
I help Bella put River down in the portable crib the front desk sent up.
"Can you—will you stay just for a little bit?" I watch as Bella bites her lip, fidgeting.
I know I should say no and walk away, but I can't. "Yeah, I can stay—I'll stay as long as you want me to."
Bella gets into the bed and moves until her back is against the wall, then taps the bed beside her as she looks at me. I swallow before moving to the bed. Sitting on the edge, I remove my shoes before lying down on my side facing her.
Bella and I spent the next few minutes just looking into each other's eyes. Slowly, my arm moves under Bella's head and she moves her body closer to me.
"Bella, I want to know you. Everything—even your past—let me in—let me help. I swear you can trust me. I'm asking as a man, not your caseworker." I look into her eyes as I speak, hoping she'll see just how much I mean what I say. I know that I'm breaking every rule with her—and my job be damned; I just don't care.
Bella begins to draw patterns on my arm with her finger. "I don't remember much before the age of five. It was mainly just Mom and me. She had the odd guy here and there, but they never stuck around for too long.
"I was seven when I first asked about my dad. I couldn't remember what he look liked anymore. Mom got mad when I asked about him. She was screaming that she was the one that got me my clothes, toys, and put food on the table. Why was I asking about someone that didn't care?
"I felt bad and told her I was sorry. We went back to how we were. I was ten when I was talking to a friend whose dad was taking her out for Father's Day. I told her she was lucky, and I wished I could see my dad again. I didn't know that my mom had heard us talking. That night she told me that my dad used to beat her, and when I was five, she couldn't take it any more—so she ran away with me.
"I felt so bad for bringing him up, and I started to hate him for hurting her. Yet, I couldn't get rid of the part of me that wanted to know where I came from. When I was thirteen, we were talking about family trees in school. I had all of my mom's side done, but my teacher said I would fail if I didn't include my father's side. It took me four days before I could ask her, and again, she started screaming at me. She told me that he didn't want me because I was a girl and he had wanted a boy. Then she said he was dead, and I would never get to see him."
Bella stops talking and closes her eyes before clearing her throat. I ran my hand through her hair, reassuring her I was here.
"When I turned fourteen, my mom met Phil, and he started coming around a lot. My mom was spending so much time with Phil and less time with me. I'm ashamed to say that I was jealous. I mean, it's not like we spent much time together before—she was always working—but we did spend half an hour a day with each other. Once Phil was involved, I didn't see her anymore."
I frown at what Bella just said; there's just something about the whole thing that has red flags waving in my head.
"One day, Phil brought his brother James over, and he seemed real nice. Three days later, he came back. I was surprised to find that he wanted to spend time with me. It went on like this for a month. He made me feel so special and wanted.
"Six weeks later, he asked me to be his girlfriend, and I said yes right away. He told me that we couldn't tell anyone. I was a little hurt, but he said people would think it was strange that my mom was dating his brother. Also, there was the age thing—I was two months shy of my sixteenth birthday. He said once I was sixteen, we could come out and tell everyone, so I said okay."
I take a deep breath, trying hard to relax and not show the anger that I am starting to feel inside.
"On my sixteenth birthday, he came over, knowing that Phil had taken my mom away for a short vacation. He told me he loved me and, if I loved him, I would let him make love to me. I didn't want to lose him, so I agreed.
"He took me to my room and told me to strip and get into bed. Then he came and got on the bed next to me. His kisses were hard, and when he entered me, it felt like I was being ripped open. I asked him to wait, to give me a minute—he said that guys can't stop after they start, that it would hurt him. So I nodded, saying that he could keep going. I didn't want him to be in pain."
I'll show the fucker pain—I swear if I ever see this guy, I will be doing time.
"It hurt so much, and there was so much blood—he just left afterwards. After that night, he changed. He would get mad at me all the time, and he stopped coming over as much. Six weeks later, I found out I was pregnant.
"Mom and Phil were mad, shouting at James and me. James said it was okay because I was sixteen. Phil laughed, saying that he was right—the age of consent was sixteen—but since he was more than sixty months older than me, I had to be eighteen. Otherwise, he could be charged with statutory rape.
"James stared telling me I had to get rid of it and to keep my mouth shut. Phil told my mom he would leave her if she didn't take care of my little problem. She took me to this doctor in another state. On the way there, she said that she was ashamed of me, and that's why she was taking me so far away from our home. She said that I owed her—if I loved her as much as she loved me, then I would get rid of the thing."
Okay, that's three fucking people on my shit list. No wonder Bella fucking ran and doesn't want to go back.
"It took four days to get to this doctor. When we got there, my mom left me sitting in the waiting room. She went to call Phil and tell him it was getting done. There was this woman there, and she was crying. I didn't mean to listen, but she couldn't have a baby and they just used the last of their money on IVF that didn't work. I felt so bad for her. I was about to get rid of a healthy baby when there was a woman begging to have one."
I lean over and kiss her head, wiping away the tears that have fallen.
"I ran out of the doctor's office. My plan was to search for this woman and see if they would adopt my baby. Then I would go back home to Mom. I thought it would be easy. But I couldn't find her anywhere.
"After I met Elizabeth, she said that when the time came, I wouldn't have been able to give up my baby. It made me think back to the woman at the homeless shelter, and I remembered the pain I had felt in those few minutes when she held River and wasn't willing to hand her back to me. There's no way I could give River up.
"I kept dreaming that I had found the lady, and when I had River, she took her away from me and I was screaming for her to give her back. Then in other dreams, I would tell her I changed my mind, and I had to watch this already broken woman be in more pain as I took my daughter back."
I pull Bella toward me more and I kiss her head again. Running my hand up and down her, she cries on my chest.
"You're amazing. You shouldn't feel bad about wanting to keep your baby. As for your first thought about giving her to two people who would love her—that too was an amazing idea. You were scared and alone, trying to do right—by a lot of people. I'm adopted, and my mom and dad love me very much. I'll say that I'm glad that you had Elizabeth and that you kept River. You are doing great, lil' momma."
I hold Bella for the rest of the night. I know that I've passed the point of no return with her.
In the morning, once everyone is awake, I order room service.
"I want you to stay here. You have time on your cell, right?"
Bella shakes her head. "I needed bread and stuff. Sorry." I rub her arm, shaking my head at her.
"That's fine. I will top it up for you, so if you need me, you can call. Until then, use the room phone." I point to the phone by the bed.
"I'm going to call my Uncle Charlie—he owns the apartment I was talking about. You'll love it. It's above his garage, and it has two bedrooms, a kitchen, living room, and a large bathroom. The garden is large and enclosed, so River will be safe playing out there. He has cable TV, and the garage is already wired."
Bella nods her head at me. "It sounds really good."
I smile at her. "I haven't told you the best part yet! My parents live right next door."
Bella's smile gets bigger, and then it falls.
"What's wrong?" I pull her chair a little closer to mine.
"What if ..." Bella closes her eyes. "What if they don't like me?"
I push Bella's hair back behind her shoulders. "They will love you," I say, stopping myself from saying "just like I do." I mean, do I? It's only been a few short weeks. "Okay, I'll be back really soon?"
Bella nods her head, and I place a kiss on her forehead.
"Bye," I say to Bella and River.
I stop, turn, and look at River, who is smiling at me as she does her own little wave.
I look at Bella, who is biting her lip.
"Bye, River," I say, walking over to her and giving her head a kiss too.
"Bye, dada, dada, dada."
I chuckle as I walk out the door.
Once I'm at work, I call Charlie, who says that he's more than happy for them to move in—but he's not going to be here this week; he'll be away dealing with his soon-to-be ex-wife. But, I should show Bella around and let her know that her rent won't be any more than she can afford.
I also call Jasper and Emmett to ask if they would help move Bella's things from the house to the apartment over the weekend. Thankfully, they both agreed. Bella will be in her new place in just two days.
"Edward, can you come in and see me?" I look up at Mrs. Cope and nod my head.
"The Smith-Dwyer case. I think I may have found her mother. It turns out she was sent to her father, and he didn't report her missing. Mrs. Dwyer seems very happy to get in contact with her daughter again."
I shake my head. "I don't think that's a good idea. From what Bella has told me, her mother neglected her. She ran away when her mother tried to get her to abort her baby."
Mrs. Cope frowns at me. "Mrs. Dwyer did say that Bella makes up stories. She told me she was really wild and slept around."
Getting angry, I stand up. "Look, this is my case, and I know that she wasn't lying to me. Brenda, you have known me for twenty-two years—I sat in this room with my drugged out mom, who was begging you not to take me away. I was four, and I remember it so clearly. I can read people—you know I can. That's one of the reason you offered me a job here straight out of college.
"I am telling you this—Bella was abused by her mom—in nearly every way. You can't want to send her back there. Besides, she's an adult now."
Mrs. Cope rubs her head. "Edward, I know you're fond of the girl, but she's now living in a home with no heating or electricity. They're both are in danger there."
I shake my head again. "They're in a hotel—they're moving into a new place on Sunday."
Mrs. Cope throws down her pen looking at me. "Edward, what have you done?"
I shake my head at her. "I did exactly what was needed ... what was the right thing to do."
Mrs. Cope holds up her hand. "Please be careful, Edward. Bella is a young mom—a teen mom—without a job, a home, or any family to help her. You may not like it—and it may not be right—but to me, River is a child at risk. Do what you have to do, Edward. You have one week. Make sure she understands this. I'll make sure she stays in your case files—unless I see that you've crossed a line."
I stare at the letter she hands me. I pull my hair, seeing that Bella has a child protection hearing in a week.
I head back to the hotel and hold Bella again the whole night as she breaks down. I whisper to her that I will be fighting for her, and that by the hearing, I will make sure she has all her I's dotted and T's crossed. I explained to her that the state could consider River a Child in Need of Assistance [CiNA]. She would have to work closer with a social worker. It doesn't mean that she automatically loses custody of River. I explained if it did happen, we'd have to meet with a few other caseworkers every month. Then after three months, there would be another child protection hearing to see if River would remain with the same amount of help, if more help needed to be added, or if services should be removed.
I told her that she had a safe place for her and River to stay. I offered to help her look for a job. My sister-in-law, Rose, owned a daycare center, so she could take River there when she worked.
Bella tried to have faith—I knew she trusted me, but she's been let down and kick around so much.
After seeing Bella cry so much, I want to have everything perfect for her at the apartment before she gets here. So I roped everyone into helping get the place looking really homey.
I spoke to Rose, who was more than happy to take River in for free while Bella searched for a job. Once Bella had a job, she said she would help fill out the forms to get Bella help covering the cost.
Jasper said that his girlfriend Alice was looking for someone to work in her shop, and he would put in a good word for Bella. Rose adds that Alice was a little bubbly and very talkative but, thankfully, very sweet.
I gave him the go-ahead, and he told me that Alice has set up an interview at four o'clock on Thursday afternoon. I cross my fingers, hoping that she gets the job. It would take away most of the concerns that would be discussed during the hearing. The only thing they could possibly have to say against her is regarding Bella's age—and that can't be held against her unless she is neglecting the child. I know she has no family help, but I do know my family, and they will love and help Bella and River—almost as much as I do—so I know they'll band together.
I collect Bella and River from the hotel and take them to their new home. Smiling, I watch Bella looking around at everything. After we eat dinner, Bella bathes and puts River to bed.
"So, Charlie doesn't want any rent for the first two months. This is the five hundred that Mrs. Masen paid Tanya when she first moved in." As I hand the money to Bella, she looks at it and then back to me.
"Mrs. Masen left you everything in her will—that includes the security deposit. We need to fill out this form for River to start at the new daycare. Rose said you have the first month for free. And you also have a job interview set up for Thursday at four. Not sure what you've been doing, but my friend Jasper's girlfriend is looking for someone."
I frown, worrying if I've over-stepped the mark. I turn to look at Bella, and suddenly, Bella lips touch mine as her hands touch the tops of my arms. Her lips stay on mine softy for a few seconds before she pulls back a little. She doesn't pull back much because our noses are almost touching.
"Thank you so much. I don't know what I would have done without you."
I watch Bella's eyes flicker between my lips and my eyes. Suddenly, I thread my fingers in her hair as the other goes up her back, pulling her mouth back to mine. I trace my tongue over her lip, and she opens her mouth to mine. Her hands are in my hair, trying to pull me closer to her. We kiss for what seems like no time at all, but the sky is now completely dark.
Her lips and teeth are on my neck, and I don't feel like I can get close enough. I want her so much.
"Bella, I need you so much."
"I want you, more than I can explain."
"This is more to me than casual, Bella—you and River are my life now."
"Take me to our bed and make love to me, Edward. Make me yours completely."
I lift her easily and carry her to the bedroom. Placing her on the bed, I slowly remove all of our clothes. I kiss and lick every inch of her small, delicate body as I listen to her moans and cries of pleasure. I nibble and kiss her flesh, and then she's pulling me up. For the longest time, I continue to touch and kiss, her bringing her over the edge of pleasure time and again.
"Edward, please make love to me," she begs.
"I will make love to you forever—you are mine now," I say as I slowly push inside of her.
The heat is so amazing, I almost blow my load halfway in. I have to stop, panting to regain my control.
"Don't stop—I don't want you hurting."
"Baby, that was a lie. I'm not hurting. I'm so overcome with the pleasure that if I don't slow down, I will lose it and be done too soon. Am I hurting you at all?"
"You're not hurting me—it feels so good. So full—but so good."
We move slowly together until I'm fully seated inside her. The feelings of love take over, and without moving, I look her in the eye and lean my forehead to hers.
"You really are my—everything—nothing is as important as you and River. I love you," I declare.
Our bodies move together in the age-old dance of lovers. Everything is so new and so wonderful. The way we move together, it's as if we were made for each other. Nothing has ever been this perfect before.
I woke a little bit ago, just lying here holding her body to mine. I've been waiting for the panic to come. I mean, I just slept with one of my cases. A single mom, and one of my cases. She's only eighteen—that's eight years younger than me—and one of my cases. She's a single mom to the cutest little girl, and one of my cases. I could lose my job over sleeping with this beautiful girl who is eighteen, who is a single mom to the cutest little girl—who is one of my cases! Nope, there's no panic there whatsoever—not even when I try to work myself up. I know that this is right—Bella and River—they mean much more to me than my job ever will.
I rub my hand up and down Bella's arm. "Mama, Dada, Mama, Dada."
I turn my head and chuckle, listening to River calling us. When I turn back, I see Bella's eyes beginning to flutter open.
"Hush, lil' momma, I'll get her. You go back to sleep." I kiss her lips and watch as a big smile comes across her face.
"I'm in this one hundred percent. I want you to be mine ... my girl. And, I want River to be my baby girl."
Bella looks up at me. "I think—I think I've fallen in love with you. It's more than just being attracted to you. I feel safe with you, I—I—I—don't know how to explain it."
I rub her cheek, but as River's calls start coming again, I chuckle, kissing her lips once more.
"There's no rush—I'm here until you tell me to go—which I hope is never. Go back to sleep—I'll wake you later."
Giving her another kiss, I roll out of bed and put my pants on.
"River, I'm coming, baby girl. Hold on," I call out, giving Bella a wave after blowing her a kiss, which she catches.
The week has flown by, but it has been a good week. Bella and River have settled into their new home well. Rose has adopted Bella as her new little sister, and River loves the daycare. Bella got the job with Alice and starts today. It's Saturday. I'm not working so I volunteer to watch River.
Bella and I seem to have become an item. The only thing looming over our heads is the child protection hearing. I managed to get it pushed back a week, so it's now booked for next Thursday.
"Is that cup of tea for me, River?"
River chuckles, holding up a toy cup. "Here, Dada."
As I take the cup from her, I hear a car pull up, knowing it is Alice dropping Bella off. I pick River up to go to meet Bella and see how her first day went. But instead of it being Bella, it's Charlie.
"Oh, hey, Uncle Charlie."
Charlie looks at me, then River, and smiles. As he gets closer, a frown appears and he looks sad.
"What's wrong?" I ask as he gets closer to me.
"Oh, nothing, son. I just think this divorce is taking it out of me. I've been thinking about my baby girl. It's been almost sixteen years since I last saw her. Renee said that she hates me and doesn't want me in her life. I guess she's away at some artsy-fartsy college, making some big name for herself."
I let out a sigh, knowing that he's done so much to see his daughter and she just turns her back on him.
"She looks so much like her." I watch Charlie smile at River. "What's her name?"
I smile at Charlie seeing another car pull up with Bella inside.
"This is River Dwyer, and behind you is her mom, Isabella—Bella Dwyer."
Charlie turns to look at Bella, and Bella's mouth drops open.
Before I can ask what's wrong she and Charlie speak at the same time.
"She said you were dead," comes from Bella.
"Renee—Is-a-bella ..." comes from Uncle Charlie.
I look between them as my brain tries to piece things together. Then it clicks ... oh my God ... Renee Dwyer is both Bella's mother's name and my Uncle Charlie's soon to be ex-wife's name.
I have been sleeping with my cousin ... and my case file! Okay, I'm adopted, so we're cousins in name only. But she—Bella—is Charlie's daughter—Charlie, who has not seen her in sixteen years! Charlie, who is a cop! Charlie, who carries a gun! FUCK! I'm in love with my cousin, whose dad is a cop and carries a gun. Insert full blown PANIC.