A/N: All mistakes in this chapter are totally mine.


Ch. 9

Edward leads Isabella out into the cool spring twilight, guiding her with a hand held firmly on the small of her back. The spray from the fountain chills his skin but cannot quell the mounting unease in his gut. With each step he is putting space between himself and the scene he'd prepared himself for: one with an audience, darkness and the need for silence. Out in the night air Edward feels vulnerable and his limbs feel too loose. His mind ranges through an innumerable list of possible scenarios that might present themselves. With the change of scenery four bits of silk and medical necessity seem grossly inadequate for the task at hand.

Ahead of them a black limousine pulls up to the curb. The car that Edward arrived in is nowhere in sight.

"We're going together this time?" Edward asks.

The smirk on Isabella's face serves as his only reply.

Edward searches for solace in the towering city skyline, a vision he's often sought to calm his nerves and catch his breath. Sturdy and strong, the buildings of Los Angeles withstand scorching sun and a shaking earth. At night, when the world goes to sleep they stand sentinel, taking care. Tonight the sky behind the dark monoliths glows in violet and orange and gulls swoop and dive playing in the breeze. Tonight the dying rays of the sun glint and play on the shining surfaces, nearly obscuring the glowing digital numbers telling the time on the building across the street. A lump forms in Edward's throat. It's past the hour for his wife's evening medication. He'd felt so uncomfortable in his mother's presence that he'd neglected to discuss Angela's schedule. His hand itches for his cell phone.

"That was quite a performance," Bella murmurs.

"Maybe you should have stayed inside then."

"I thought I'd prefer the second act in private, Mr. Cullen," she whispers in his ear. She cannot help but let her lips brush and then let her eyes linger on Edward's fingers.

In turn, Edward forgets his phone, his hand suddenly itching for a different form of contact. He grips Isabella's waist and attempts to channel his intentions. He is here to guess Isabella's needs and they seem to fall somewhere between the extremes of omnipotence and powerlessness, always involving frustration and anger. In the past Isabella had been the one to anger Edward and it had left him in her good graces. This time, with tables turned, she likewise seems pleased. He knows that he must take control of the situation, but anger is exhausting and Edward doesn't know if he can mount that emotion once more.

As they arrive at the waiting car, Edward recognizes Isabella's assistant holding open the back door, dressed as a chauffeur.

"He drives you around, too?"

"I use Jacob in any circumstance when I need someone discrete and trustworthy."

"I don't know. I think he seems kind of unprofessional," Edward remarks as Jacob glowers at him from underneath the brim of his hat. He would more likely describe Jacob Black as jealous and bitter – emotions that do not necessarily proceed to trust.

"He's my friend, Mr. Cullen."

Isabella's voice is quiet and small. She peers up at Edward with an expression bordering on temerity, and instead of a monster, Edward sees her for the pretty woman she is. She is a woman with a good job, a head for finance and a thorough knowledge of Carmen. She is a woman in a stunning dress that he is leading to a waiting limousine. She is a beautiful woman that would like to spend time alone with him. She has a friend.

Isabella squeezes Edward's hand before she leaves his side to whisper in Jacob Black's ear. He notices the way she gently grasps Jacob's wrist. He watches her plump, red lips moving against Jacob's earlobe and notes her growing grin and sparkling eyes. Jacob shakes his head and folds his fingers around Isabella's hand in a gesture more familiar than intimate. The deep notes of his reply are lost to the whir of traffic, but whatever he says makes Isabella giggle – a sound that dances with the splash of the fountain and echoes through the square. Despite the fact that Jacob and Isabella are the two most immoral individuals he has ever had the displeasure of meeting, Edward is gripped with jealousy as he watches the scene before him. He would like support in the confidence of a friend.

With a chuckle, Jacob rolls his eyes and steps between Edward and Isabella, shielding her with his body and the door of the limousine. A few more quiet words are exchanged between the two, and with a zip, bare shoulders and a puddle of red silk, Isabella disappears into the back of the car. Jacob stoops and hangs the empty gown over his arm and eyes Edward Cullen.

"I'll need your jacket, wallet and cell phone, Mr. Cullen."

Edward peers between Jacob, the dress and the open car door.

"Don't pretend this is a difficult decision," he huffs.

Edward takes a deep breath and begins the process he detests. All forms of personal security relinquished, he spreads his legs for the inevitable pat down.

"You do this for all your friends?" Edward asks with Jacob's hands on his upper thighs.

"You'll keep your glib comments to yourself, Mr. Cullen, or I'll put an end to this right now. No envelope for you."

Edward recalls the gasps and sighs from the opera box. He recalls spread thighs and damp heat. He recalls the soft look and the squeezed hand. He takes confidence in the dress draped over Jacob's arm. "She might call you a friend, Mr. Black, but I don't think your opinion could get between me and the back of this car right now." He slips into the waiting car and pulls the door shut behind him.

xXxXx

Isabella Swan sits on the far side of the seat with her back to the door so that she can watch Edward as he climbs into the car. She appreciates every inch of the man that presents himself, from his long legs, to his arms in their crisp shirtsleeves, to his broad chest. Jenks has outdone himself and the man before her looks tall, fit and stylish. His garments beg to be shed slowly and in better lighting. She detects an air of determination in the set of Edward's jaw and the steadiness of his gaze. Her body alights, pleasantly on fire in his presence.

While Edward isn't surprised to find Isabella wearing nothing but black heels, a sparkly necklace and a sinister grin, he is nevertheless uncomfortable and takes solace in the inches that lay between them. He is uncertain whether he is expected to immediately pounce or to metaphorically circle and spar. He peers around the small space, looking for inspiration as the limousine's engine purrs to life and they pull into traffic.

Isabella watches as Edward leans his elbows on his knees, his hands tented together, obviously contemplating his next move. Like a teacher admiring the way a student might work at long division, she adores his determination when faced with a new task. She relishes the return of control that her own nudity has granted her and leans back, stretches her arms wide, lounging and on display.

"Where are we going?" Edward asks.

"I'm taking you on a circuitous journey home, Mr. Cullen."

"And this? Now?" he asks. "As Mr. Black drives?"

"When we're together there will always be someone just within earshot, behind a curtain or behind a wheel. You should know that by now."

"You're kind of sick that way."

"I'm overly cautious."

"You think?" he asks, looking Isabella over from red-polished toenails to the tips of her pert breasts.

Isabella slowly shrugs, enjoying Edward's scrutiny. "Without risk there is no reward."

Edward can't help but smile. "And I'm the reward?"

"You're clearly the risk."

"Like daring me to act at the opera?"

"A risk."

"And fucking me in your office?"

"A risk."

"And delaying your flight to D.C?"

"You're catching on."

Edward leans forward. "Then what risk is this? Two adults in a private car, one beholden to please the other. This isn't the same. It would have been riskier to let me fuck you in a stairwell."

Color rises on Isabella's cheeks and she grits her teeth. "Let's not belabor the point, Mr. Cullen."

Isabella knows that she is presenting Edward Cullen with a dare. She's bared herself and locked the two of them together. She's asked him to intuit what she wants even as that line is shifting like it was drawn in the desert sands. She wants too many things from this man. She delights in his dominant desperation, but there have been other glimmers of something softer that she hasn't deserved. She wonders if he might try to hold and caress. She wonders if she would allow such a thing. And if she did, would she still let him claim his reward? The fact that Bella does not know the answers to any of these questions makes her stomach turn and her nerves fire. It raises the stakes and heightens her senses.

"I don't expect you think we're here to talk risk analysis," she continues. "I believe you know my preferences by now."

"Your preferences?" Edward asks. "I think you prefer to have me inside you and to make me feel like shit. I think you prefer the feel of vulnerability, but you can't actually give in and really experience it. You need power more than you need anything or anyone else. You even hold power over your friend up there. This ride is a way to fuck us both. Why would you do this?"

Isabella grins. "Do what, Mr. Cullen? Watch you? Desire you? Fuck you? Drive you home?"

"Seriously, why do you do this to people?"

"Why not?"

Edward sits back in his seat. So many rational and ethical answers present themselves to that he cannot calmly explain the fabric of moral society to the naked woman across from him. It is as if these reasons simply do not exist inside the small space of the limousine. They do not exist between Isabella Swan and her friend Jacob Black. Edward understands that he has willfully wandered into another reality where the rules of physics and philanthropy do not hold. Unease works its way underneath his skin and he feels as if he might choke on unholy, recycled air.

Isabella's quiet voice catches him off guard. "I need to understand the market in order to do my job well. Can you tell me what the market is made up of, Mr. Cullen?"

"Dollars?" he guesses.

She shakes her head as if her student has offered an idiotic answer. "It's made up of people. I need to understand what people will do when they are threatened or when they are overjoyed. For my job I must understand people en mass. I must guess the predictable ways in which they act and react. For my pleasure, however, I like to examine people in a more intimate setting." Isabella lets her eyes linger on Edward's crotch.

"Then I'm just attached to a dick. I'm part of a game."

Isabella is pleased that Edward has said these words out loud. They serve as a reminder. She does not casually discuss her life's motivations with her games. She does not secretly, wistfully hope that they will disregard her intentions and use her as they see fit. She does not yearn for their tender affection. She does not want these things from Edward Cullen. He is a diversion. He plays a role that she has designed to serve them both.

"Without me you and your dick would simply be unemployed, you know."

"I'm still unemployed, Ms. Swan."

"So many possibilities have opened themselves up before you, though. Scottsdale, a cure for your wife, a roof over your head... And these are fairly insignificant compared to what you could aspire to."

"My wife is not insignificant," Edward growls.

Isabella grasps the edge of the leather seat and leans forward. "Your wife, your wife, your wife. Angela Cullen. I'm tired of this trigger."

Edward's reaction is swift and uninhibited. He lunges across the small space, grabs Isabella's wrist and one of the silk strips and quicker and tighter than he would have ever planned, fastens the cloth to the handle above the door. He pushes her body aside, sliding her along the seat, tightening the rope and pulling at her arm.

"And I'm fucking tired of you! I'm tired of your measured remarks and your stupid act. I'm tired of all of your shit."

"You are not tired of me," she hisses. "You're just getting started. You want me, Mr. Cullen. You want to punish me and you love me all at the same time."

Edward doesn't listen. He's focused on tying up Isabella's other wrist in the same manner, so that her arms are spread wide and she is seated in the center of the back seat. Edward kneels on the floor before her, catching his breath, surveying his work. Isabella Swan is awful and beautiful. Her eyes twinkle, her cheeks are flushed and her chest is heaving.

Her voice is calm. "I know how much you like my breasts. You look at them whenever you have the chance."

Edward loosens his necktie.

"Tell me, whose are better? Mine or Angela's?"

Edward's heart leaps into his throat. "Shut up."

"Whose are better?"

"Shut. The fuck. Up."

"Tell me, Mr. Cullen!"

And with a handful of hair grasped in a clenched fist and another slip of silk tied tighter than he'd planned, Isabella is silenced, lips parted by blood red. Her eyes are wide. He can see the rapid fire beating of her heart through her chest. He grips her hair in his fist and pulls her face to his.

"No more talking about my wife, do you hear me?"

Isabella glares, but makes no move to show that she understands.

"Agree now or so help me, I'm walking away." When he gets no response he tightens his hold and shakes her head. "Agree, goddammit!"

Isabella nods keeping her eyes trained on Edward's face.

"You want me to fuck you? You want this?" Edward asks as he forces her thighs apart and plunges two fingers deep between her legs. Isabella gasps and Edward brings his face within a breath of hers. He curls his fingers anchoring his hand inside of her.

"Angry sex is boring, Ms. Swan. Don't you have any other bright ideas in that genius head of yours? I have enough shit to deal with without you baiting me over and over again. You want a fuck?" He twists his fingers with each question. "You want it rough? You want me in the driver's seat? Then give me a fucking break and let me make the fucking decisions."

Bella's breathing is labored and Edward feels suddenly guilty and loosens his hold on her hair. He removes his hand and traces her parted lips with his fingertips.

"I'll make the trade. I want what you're offering. But if you belittle my wife again I'll walk away. Are we clear?"

Bella gazes steadily into Edward's eyes and slowly nods her head. She strains at her silken ties, pulling closer.

"People don't need to be angry to fuck, you know? If we did it back at the concert hall it would have been fun and sneaky; it wouldn't have been angry."

Bella narrows her eyes.

"Okay, I made you a little angry. But you'd have gotten over it. Right?" Edward, of course, gets no response and he can't help but smirk. "I like it when you can't talk."

He shuffles backward until he is sitting on the far side of the limousine and takes stock in the scene before him. He hadn't planned to have Isabella Swan bound, gagged and naked, but he is quite pleased with his work. After all, this is the woman that wrapped the country's financiers around her little finger. This is the woman that fired five thousand workers in order to turn a profit. This is the woman that uses human beings like lap dogs.

This is the pretty woman that gazed into his eyes and squeezed his hand, who was shy when she admitted that she had a friend. As tempting as it might be, Edward cannot be cruel.

Isabella watches Edward unassumingly disrobe with intense anticipation. She can hardly wait to see what will come next. Even better, she is not certain Edward knows, either. The opera was a study in Edward's aptitude, but by moving things to the limousine she's created a new study of his nature.

When Edward glances across the small space Isabella involuntarily shudders. His anxious gaze caught on the security monitors was what first piqued her interest in the man, and his aptitude and ingenuity are what held it. His faltering performance at work sealed his fate and set her plan in motion. She can't believe her luck that she found him.

Edward leaves on his boxer briefs, tucks a condom packet in his waistband and ducks and shuffles to Isabella's side of the car. Settling himself before her he takes a deep breath.

"You looked really gorgeous tonight. I felt kind of lucky when I forgot why I was with you. For a second or two it was almost normal… Do your arms hurt?"

The warmth of Edward's voice raises goose bumps on Isabella's skin. She can hardly catch her breath. She shakes her head.

"Let me know if it hurts, okay?"

Isabella blinks and holds her breath while her body burns. It's as if she were flailed, set on fire and put on display. She is abused, embarrassed and aroused.

Edward takes a nipple between his fingers, squeezes, rolls, pinches and pulls while he studies Isabella's eyes for signs of pleasure or pain, uncertain of how much torture a nipple can take. With another markedly harsher pinch, Isabella gasps as pain shoots from her nipple to a spot directly between her thighs. Edward bites his lip and loosens his hold, excited beyond expectation. He continues his one-sided torture and ducks his head, ready to finally indulge himself. Taking her other pert nipple between his lips, Edward gratefully licks and sucks, delighting in the soft, firm flesh of her breast, teasing her tits, taking hold with his hand and worshipping her anatomy like he'd wanted to when he first laid eyes on her bare chest. To his delight, Isabella whimpers and presses her body against him.

When he fears he's let this go on for too long he takes a break and chances a glance upward. Isabella's eyes are trained on them, her lids limpid and lowered, her cheeks pink, her jaw slack.

With an extra hard pinch and tug he decides to let her know his thoughts on the matter. "You were right. I think these are kind of awesome." With his free hand he gently parts her thighs, investigating further. "And you like that I like them. That's pretty convenient."

Edward presses Bella's thighs together again, leaving her wet and wanting. He can think of no graceful way to move from this moment to intercourse given the fact that he's tied and immobilized Isabella, so he slides onto the seat next to her, leaning his elbows on his hands. His leg brushes against her smooth skin and it's like hot coals and dry ice burn simultaneously where their limbs meet. Isabella's breathing quickens and Edward is drowning in desire. This is a feeling he thought was gone forever. This is a feeling he'd always thought he'd experienced when he touched Angela. This is a feeling he covets and wants for himself always. This is a feeling he's always deserved.

And grace be damned, Edward slips behind Isabella, lifting her, letting her ass run against the length of his dick, settling her firmly against himself. She smells of something floral and musky and her skin is softer than the silk that he used to tether her wrists. The swells of her breasts beckon to his hands.

"Do you really want it rough all the time?" he asks.

Reaching around, he palms her breast, holding and caressing instead of pinching and pulling. It's a beautiful thing and Edward's head falls against her shoulder. His dick throbs against her ass. He wraps his other hand around her waist and finds her soft and warm, adjectives much different than he would ever choose to describe Isabella's personality. He finds the point where she is hard for him and concentrates his attention there. Isabella cannot help but move against Edward and he stifles a groan.

They play, Edward with Bella's clitoris, Bella with her ass against Edward's dick until neither are fit for strategic power plays or witty banter. Until Edward is no longer plotting moves and Bella no longer cares. His fingers make their way inside her, warm and wet, while his other hand is now rough with her breasts. He holds his mouth at her throat and traps her body against his.

"You don't know what the hell you want," he murmurs sliding his lips along her neck to her ear. "You make me guess, but you don't know." He thrusts against her ass and Bella moans. "You want this." He thrusts again. "You want me." With another thrust, Bella's moan deepens and Edward feels her body shudder against his chest.

He grabs a handful of her hair and tugs her head backwards, aligning her ear with his lips.

"You want me inside of you. Right?" When Bella makes no move to respond he tugs a little harder. "Right?"

Bella nods and Edward grinds. He loosens his hold. "Thank you."

Putting on a condom in this position is difficult and slipping off boxer briefs isn't a graceful process, but neither Edward nor Isabella care about how it is done. Their bodies are desperate for intimate contact. Neither is certain whether the road is rough and the ride is bumpy or whether the force of their attraction brings their bodies together with exceptional impact, but they are more than pulled – it's as if their bodies are forced together.

Edward threads his fingers through Isabella's hair and pulls at her head. His other hand serves as a vice, anchoring her vagina, holding her soft sweet ass against him.

"I want to hear how much you want me. I don't care if you want to tell me, either."

Edward loosens the silk around Isabella's head at the same time as he plunges his fingers deep within her warmth. Isabella gasps and tries to catch her breath.

"Do you want my cock in here?"

"What do you think?" she gasps.

"Tell me."

Isabella's only answer comes from the movement of her hips.

"Tell me you want me."

When he gets no answer he grabs hold of her hair again.

"Tell me, or this is where it ends."

With a bowed head and a deep breath, Isabella whispers the syllables Edward has been waiting for. He is vindicated and without another word he lifts, positions himself and lowers Isabella slowly, inch by inch, until she's settled on his cock. When they are finally flush with one another there is a mutual sigh and undeniable relief as if a puzzle has just been put right.

Slowly, languorously, Edward kisses and caresses as they begin to move together. Isabella cannot hold or touch, but Edward is nevertheless coming closer to the contact he has craved for too many years. He explores with hands and lips long out of practice, starved for touch. Isabella enjoys every gesture, every inch of him as he works to a slow, torturous rhythm. She presses against him, working for control, but Edward holds her in check with muscles that will surely ache later, letting the pressure build slowly… rubbing his nose across her upper back, kissing the other side of her neck, his hand drifting from breast to abdomen.

"You don't know what you want," he mumbles in response to her sighs of pleasure.

"I want -" Isabella begins, but her confession is lost in a gasp and a groan.

"What do you want?" he asks, picking up the pace.

"I want -"

"What?" he demands, pounding and insistent, grabbing her chin and turning her head so that he can almost look her in the eye. He thrusts harder and pins her body to his. "What do you want? Tell me."

Edward's breath is hot, his lips are cracked, his eyes are blinding in their intensity. Bella's body impaled, she is wracked with pleasure. She feels herself giving in, lost in sensation.

"What?" he asks with each thrust. He catches her eyes even as he loses his breath. "What?"

"I want you," she breathes as their lips lock. "Fuck. Fuck me. Fuck… You."

xXxXx

Silken cords are untied and wrists are rubbed. Bodies are warm and limbs are loose. Isabella rests her head on Edward's bare chest. The two gradually catch their breath and Isabella listens as Edward's heart slows to a more measured pace. She hasn't had the inclination to tell Jacob to circle back towards Edward's home. She knows that he is driving dutifully, waiting for her command. He does anything she asks in an attempt to bring her some solace. He's done his job. Isabella is satiated, her body at peace.

"You said something once," Bella begins. "About Jacob and me. You don't think I'm happy."

"Do you think so?" he replies.

"But what about you? Are you happy?"

Edward traces a path from Isabella's collarbone, down her gently sloping breast to the tip of her nipple. "Right now I'm satisfied."

"When was the last time you were happy, though?"

xXxXx

"She's going to be fine, Mr. Cullen. Her nodes didn't look diseased. I can't say for certain of course. We sent them in for testing, but everything looked much better than I'd expected from her scans."

xXxXx

"There was this one night. I was driving home and I took a detour down Observatory Drive. It was a really nice night and I rolled all the windows down and turned up the music really loud. Everything was good that night. Everything was going to be okay."

xXxXx

"It was small enough that she might not even need chemo. Dr. Stephens has the expanders in place. There were no complications on that end of things."

xXxXx

"It was… it was… Vampire Weekend's first album. The music was so happy, and everything was going to be okay."

xXxXx

"Kids?"

"It's a risk, but not impossible. We can talk about that after she's healed."

"She's going to heal?"

"Of course."

xXxXx

"I was a different person," Edward mumbles.

"No you weren't. You were still Edward Cullen back then."

"Hey, you said my name."

"I've said it before."

"You said 'Edward' this time."

Bella lifts her head from Edward's chest and looks into his gray-green eyes. They appear softer now, and more open even though his lids are low. "When was that?" she asks. "When you were happy?"

"About five years ago."

"It's been quite some time, hasn't it?" she asks, pushing hair from his forehead and cradling his cheek in her hand.

"When was the last time you were happy, Isabella Swan?"

"You have me beat, Edward."

He runs a hand through her messy hair – gently this time. "Isabella," he murmurs.

Bella's smile is soft and sweet before she lays her head back on Edward's chest.

"Don't think fucking and first names amount to intimacy, Mr. Cullen," she warns.

"Is that what you think I want, or is that what you want?" he asks.

"It's what humans seem to want."

"You know, the way you talk about people it's like you're not one of them. And then the things you do are -"

"About survival, Mr. Cullen. About getting to the top and staying there."

"What about intimacy?"

"Intimacy amounts to empty consolation." Isabella's voice is hollow and it makes Edward's chest hurt.

"Did you get what you wanted tonight?" he asks.

Isabella lifts herself off of Edward's chest. "You did well," she sighs and she reaches for a small compartment, producing an envelope and placing it across his abdomen.

"Did you get what you wanted this evening?" she asks.

Edward glances from the envelope to Isabella's face. "I did."

Edward and Bella consider one another in the darkness, each silently acknowledging that their desires have both shifted and are pleasantly sated just the same.

xXxXx

Edward does not take note of the time before he quietly unlocks the door of his home. Hastily dressed, his shirt is wrinkled, his tie hangs loose around his neck and his jacket is slung over his arm. He tries entering unobtrusively, but his mother jumps from the couch, alarmed at his arrival.

"Edward! I hadn't expected you back for a while." She looks her son over with a critical eye.

"It was finished early," he mumbles, avoiding eye contact and retreating to the kitchen.

"The opera?"

"My business."

Esme follows her son into the kitchen and turns on the light, illuminating his back. Edward ducks his head into the refrigerator, but is uncertain what he's searching for - a drink, an excuse.

"Is everything okay?" she asks.

"For now."

"Edward, talk to me. Please."

Edward sighs and facing facts, faces his mother. He's aware and annoyed that no matter what he produces from the refrigerator, his mother has the ability to see right through him. "Talk about what, Mom?" he asks.

Esme sizes up her son, letting the situation at hand sink in. "You're not yourself, dear."

"Do you really expect me to be myself, Mom? Am I supposed to watch Angela slowly die and be myself? Watch Dad lose his job? Watch Rose and Emmett struggle? Worry over every little thing and still be myself? If you're talking about being a sad sack that takes everything on and still shows up with a smile, no, I'm not being myself. But if you're talking about the part of me that gets things done, then you're in luck, because I'm making things happen for my family."

"Edward, honey, calm down. I just asked a question."

Edward leans on the kitchen counter. He's never raised his voice to his mother before. Bowed by overwhelming guilt, he cannot look at her for another second. "I'm sorry, Mom. I'm on edge."

Esme inches closer. "Was tonight awful, then?"

Edward hesitates. He works to keep his voice calm and even. "No, it wasn't. But it doesn't make things any better, you know? It might even make it all worse."

Esme carefully considers her words. There are things mothers keep from their children. They are held deep in their hearts, unearthed only when they have the potential to help or heal. "I understand wanting to run away."

Edward glances at his mother from the corner of his eye. "I wouldn't run away," he insists.

"Neither did I. You're a good man, Edward."

He shakes his head. "I don't think so."

"Trust me. I know you better than anyone in the world."

"I can't do this now, Mom."

"Maybe I understand."

"No. Maybe you need to go."

Esme walks gingerly across the kitchen tiles as if she were walking across cracking ice and goes on tiptoe to place a kiss on her son's cheek. Edward flinches and concentrates desperately on the pattern in the marbled countertop while his mother collects her belongings and makes her way to the front door.

"Alice is coming home soon. She planned on staying here to help out."

"I don't know if that's going to work."

"It could be good for you and a comfort for Angela."

"I don't know, Mom."

"Tell her yourself then, dear."

The front door quietly clicks and Edward allows himself to breathe.

xXxXx

The door to Angela's bedroom is closed and the dim glow from the nightlight gleams on the hardwood of the hallway floor. Edward leans his ear against the door and listens, but hears nothing within – not a cough or even the sound of labored breathing. He pulls the envelope with their itineraries from his pocket and considers his actions quietly. He would like to curl up with Angela and whisper in her ear that he's still doing his best to make everything alright. He'd like to tell her about the opera house and the first half of the performance. She'd always liked dabbling in the finer things in life. He'd like to confess and beg her forgiveness.

Instead he leaves the envelope on the table in the hall before turning off the lights and heading to bed.


A/N: Thanks for waiting. Thanks so much for reading. Thanks in advance for reviewing. Thanks to Obsmama for keeping me strong.

I heard someone say something the other day that rang so true for me. Artists are ripe for the picking. Someone gives them money and sure, they'll hand over their work, but if someone comes and tells them how much that piece of art speaks to them they'll hand it over for free. Let me know if it speaks to you, okay?

Until next time ~BDC