Hi! Thank you for liking Garrett and supporting his views! He is better for Edward than any therapist, isn't he?

Have you checked out the Make Me Laugh contest yet? Please do—it has some good entries, and more will be added as the days pass! I am participating too, but don't try to guess anything; just enjoy them and vote impartially.

Disclaimer: Same as usual.

Pre-read by the lovely TeamAllTwilight. She saves Emmett's name again and again, otherwise he would have bashed me by now!


Chapter-21

The rest of the day turned out to be equally interesting. How could it be otherwise, with Garrett and Emmett accompanying us?

For lunch, Garrett took us to an informal, family-type restaurant. With his unusual getup and preferences, I was expecting something outlandish, so I was surprised with his choice. Just shows you can't take anything for granted, can you?

When we were seated and had placed our orders, he excused himself for five minutes and went to the play area reserved for kids. We watched open-mouthed as he cooed at babies while their mothers smiled indulgently at him, and chatted with toddlers as if they were old friends. Five minutes turned into fifteen, and we could see that our order was coming up. Garrett finally tore himself away from the children surrounding him, touching his beads curiously and trying to hold him back by wrapping their little arms around his legs. He laughed at pointed at us, explaining that we were waiting for him. Finally they let him go.

"You seem to be really comfortable around children," I remarked when he was back in his place, smiling joyfully. I was curious about his family, but wasn't sure if he would mind asking. As it turned out, he didn't.

"I love to be with them—they are the best company hands down," he beamed, gulped down some water, and thanked the server for his promptness. The food looked delicious although it was nothing fancy, and we dug in enthusiastically. Garrett informed us that his wife ran a day care for the underprivileged kids of another neighbourhood, and even tutored the older ones when they required help with their studies.

"Kate is great with them," he smiled fondly, remembering. "Sometimes I drop by at her workplace, and I can see how much the kids love her. It fills a space in our life which might have been empty otherwise, after our children grew up and moved away." He could sense our curiosity I suppose, for he continued explaining that their son was a doctor and so was his wife, and currently they were working in a war-ravaged region of Africa. Their daughter, who was also married, lived in Los Angeles with her songwriter husband. She taught music at a prestigious school.

"The Silverlake Conservatory of Music—it is a non-profit organisation that gives the opportunity to learn music from excellent teachers at very reasonable prices. So you see, even though their careers are very different, they have learnt compassion from their mother and carried it forward."

He was obviously proud of his children. I suddenly yearned to do something that would make Charlie feel proud of me. It was difficult to imagine what would, though. He thought becoming a nursery school teacher was a lark for me. He loved his collection of guns and was impressed by people who could shoot well, but I had never learned. I found guns scary, honestly, and the very idea of holding one made me nauseous. I sighed inwardly. Perhaps I would always be a disappointment to him.

Emmett began talking about fulfilling his dream of running the McCarty Fitness Factory so as to maintain and upgrade its reputation, with Rose at his side. He did have two siblings, but none of them was interested in the family business. Rose looked a little shy but pleased. She was good at Math, so she hoped she could help with the financial side. Perhaps she'd study Accounting at the Peninsula College at Port Angeles while Emmett completed his degree in Seattle. Hearing her talk in such a practical manner was…strange, and slightly unreal.

Our seats in the stadium were really good, and we had a great time at the game. Edward seemed a little disconcerted by the huge crowd and the noise level. But once he was sure that nobody was paying any attention to him, he relaxed. He had watched quite a few games on TV, so he was able to answer whatever questions I put to him. Emmett and he had a few discussions on the lack of this and that technique in several players, which Garrett joined on and off. I was pleased when Edward cheered loudly for the home team.

We waited quietly while people were spilling out of the stadium. Neither Edward nor I was comfortable being jostled, so we only left after the crowd had thinned a bit. Therefore I was surprised when I felt somebody pressing his hands into my hips from behind. As soon as I stopped and turned, Edward stopped too, and so did the others in our group.

"What's the matter, Bella?"

I stared at the pimply-faced high-school kid who seemed to be the culprit. He was probably a couple of years younger to me, which surprised me. "I think you should keep your hands to yourself," I said in a level tone. I didn't want Emmett bashing his face in. But the idiot glared back at me defiantly.

"You should walk faster then. It's not my fault that somebody pushed me from behind." He put his hands on his hips to emphasize his point. Emmett dragged him to the side so that people could pass, and all of us followed.

"Did he push you Bella?" Edward asked. I nodded.

"He almost fell into me," I reported. "Maybe somebody did push him…" Edward put his arm around me in a comforting gesture.

"Did you apologize to her?" he asked the boy, who narrowed his eyes in reply and shrugged in an irritating manner. I was almost sure Edward wasn't a violent person, but still I felt uncomfortable with the exchange.

"Edward, let's just—"

"No Bella, he should apologize to you, even if he didn't mean to push you. That's common civility," he insisted. The boy squirmed, but Emmett held his wrist firmly in his hand. He settled for belligerence.

"Listen to your girlfriend, dude. I already told her somebody pushed me. You don't want to start any trouble here, do you?"

Edward suddenly had a very grown-up expression on his face, his eyes boring into the boy's.

"She is my wife," he stressed, "and I will not allow anybody to be rude to her. Now say you are sorry and you can leave. Or do you want us to follow you home and tell your parents what a nice boy you are?"

The boy's eyes widened. "Leave my parents out of this. They will probably ground me for a week. I am sorry, okay? I really didn't mean it."

Emmett smiled and let him go, and he scampered off. Garrett raised an eyebrow at Edward.

"You handled it very well, Edward," he commented, but Edward just looked puzzled.

"He should have apologised, right?" he asked, looking at all of us.

Emmett smiled. "Definitely, but I am impressed because you made him do it without flying off the handle." Then he chuckled. "You scared him with the following home bit, I think!"

Edward rolled his eyes. "Of course. Can you imagine how mom would react if it got to her that any of us had been rude, that too to a girl?" Emmett shuddered and nodded quickly. Rose laughed.

We said goodbye to Garrett then and returned to our hotel, where we had a light supper, since we already each had a hot dog each at the stadium. Emmett promised us he would leave in an hour. He would return in the morning, and we would leave for Forks together.

-JRFM-

I came out of the bathroom after having a much-needed shower, wondering if I would find the TV on and Edward focused on another bare-breasted beauty, but he seemed to be in a different mood. First of all, he wanted to take a shower as well, confessing he felt quite dirty and sweaty. See, I told you how boys' minds work!

When he came out, looking and smelling good enough to eat, his expression was still serious. He sat near me on the small but very plush, very purple loveseat by the window and put his arm around my shoulders. He seemed to be deep in thought. I sighed, feeling somewhat disappointed.

"Bella, why did you look sad today?" he asked quietly, rubbing his cheek with mine. I smiled at the silly gesture but was puzzled.

"When was I sad, Edward? I had a wonderful day—I was happy all the time." I turned and kissed his cheek. What? I could not help it!

His cheek lifted in a smile. "While we were having lunch, with Garrett," he clarified, his fingers combing my still-damp hair. It felt so good; I almost lost the thread of conversation. "Huh?" I asked, half-asleep. "Oh yes, lunch. But I still don't remember being sad."

"Well, maybe not sad, just…thoughtful," he qualified. "When Garrett said that he was proud of his children, you had this pensive expression on your face, like you were somewhere else."

"Oh, right, that. I was thinking of what I could do to make Charlie proud of me." Of course I remembered, and of course my mouth drooped.

"That, that's how you looked then," declared Edward, then frowned. "Why do you think Charlie is not proud of you now? He must be!"

"Why?" I asked, dejected. "I have done nothing in my life as of yet, nothing special I mean. I wasn't even born a boy, so that he could hand over his business to me. He must be so disappointed—" Here my wallowing was cut off as Edward placed his hand on my mouth and shut me up.

"Not being born a boy is not your fault, Bella. And who is to say boys always do their parents proud? Look at me—the eldest son of a drug lord, interested in nothing but making sketches and writing stories. Didn't you say what I did was more important than what Jasper did?" I was surprised by the vehemence of his tone. I was also flattered that he had given so much importance to my words.

"But you had a horrible accident, Edward. Charlie told me Carlisle had high expectations of you before. You would have—" But he shook his head emphatically.

"I don't think so Bella. Even if there had been no accident, I couldn't have done the expected—I hate drugs. Maybe it was a good thing I had that accident; nobody expects me to take over the business now!" he winked at me and grinned openly.

I am sure my expression resembled nothing more than a fish. Then I laughed loudly. "I never thought I would ever see you joke about that! I am glad, of course, that you see it in that light. So, you think I don't need to do anything special to impress Charlie?"

Edward rubbed my neck gently. "Bella, I have known you for a very short time, but I do know that you are a kind, generous, strong girl. All you need to do is to be yourself, and I am sure your father will be impressed with the daughter he has raised." I teased him that he sounded a bit like Garrett, and he laughed. "Maybe his advice has made me think good things," he admitted, "but Bella, since the wedding you have been encouraging me to do better. Now I want to know—what is your dream? What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Um, I don't know really," I mused, touched by his concern. "I thought about being a nursery teacher, but I am not a hundred percent sure. It will be something to do with children though; I like being around them."

"Hmm, maybe something like Kate is doing?" he suggested, but I shook my head doubtfully.

"Something more than that, really-like really solving their problems, you know? Like being a counselor, maybe? I don't know yet."

He made a soothing sound. "There's time to think about that; don't worry so much." And he turned a little and began to knead my shoulders. I closed my eyes and moaned with pleasure. His hands stopped abruptly, making me open my eyes and pout.

"Sorry," he muttered, starting the motion again, "that sound you made…it was very distracting."

I frowned, which was nearly impossible when Edward was making me feel so good. "Distracting how?" I managed in between a couple of moans. His hands slipped a little.

"I don't know—it made me feel funny in the stomach, I guess, like I am sitting in a Ferris wheel and it's starting to go down. Almost like…when I kiss you."

My brain suddenly woke up and connected the dots in a hurry, and I smiled, feeling a little naughty. I tilted his chin, bent forward and caressed his lips with mine. "Like this?" I whispered. He gulped and held my shoulders slightly tighter.

"Yes, like that," he answered. This time I captured his lower lip between mine, making him shudder. His hands wandered on to my back, where they sneaked under my tank top and stroked, even as his tongue sneaked into my mouth and stroked mine. The Ferris wheel was going down very quickly indeed! I pulled at his shirt until he got the hint and yanked it off, and then I had access to all the glorious skin covering his back and chest. His hands were as eager to explore as mine, so I got rid of my top in a quick, bold move. Last night our touches had been tentative, but tonight we had the confidence born of that hesitation, and tried to get as close to each-other as was possible in that small space. The light hair on his chest gave that closeness a texture as he crushed me to him, and the next moment I found myself straddling him and moving back and forth where I could clearly feel his excitement. His mouth left mine, only to descend to my breasts and attend to them one by one, punctuated by a few groans. As that good, good, goood feeling built inside me, I heard him groan my name twice, and fell through a blissful haze, the only reality being Edward's hair clutched in my fists.

When I finally opened my eyes, it was to find Edward smiling sleepily at me. He blinked a few times and yawned, hastily covering his mouth.

"I want to dream of this, Bella," he murmured as we shakily got up from the loveseat. "Do you think…can we sleep without our shirts?"


End Note: Can they? And what dreams will Edward dream then? Did you think Garrett would be so fond of children and a complete family man, or an eccentric bachelor? What should Bella's career be?