A/N: Edward's dysfunctional family makes an appearance in this chapter. I was in a particularly bad mood the day I wrote the first part of it, so I apologize if that comes through here. But it doesn't last long, and happier stuff in the end.
Chapter 8 ~ Beside Her
Bella and I arrange a rededication ceremony for three weeks later, and to my surprise, my brother makes a request to be there. He apologizes for not being present at my first wedding to Bella, but finally explains that he'd spent the day comforting our mother as she cried over missing a very special day in her son's life. Our father had banned her from attending and it broke her heart.
This angers me and snaps something deep inside. All this time, I've believed that my mother had just not approved of my marriage to Bella, as she's never told me any different in the seven years since our wedding. But there was nothing but honesty in my brother's eyes when he spoke to me, and I've finally had enough.
For the first time in a few years, I find myself at my parents' door, knocking on it like just another visitor. My mother answers with wide eyes as she spots me here, but just as quickly stiffens when my father's voice sounds behind her.
"Well, Edward, isn't this a surprise," he says in that cool tone I'd grown accustomed to throughout my childhood, but now, it just pisses me off.
"Yes, I've come to bring my mother to my wedding," I reply with a hard glare directed at him.
"No, I don't think that will be possible. Your mother and I already have a prior engagement," he answers, folding his arms over his chest. "She doesn't have time for your ridiculous ritual with that woman. We didn't approve of you marrying her in the first place, and now look at you. She's destroyed you."
My fists ball at my sides and my jaw tenses, and I move past my mother to approach him. "You listen here, you son of a bitch. 'That woman' has a name and it's Bella, and she is my wife. And you will never speak of her that way in my presence again. And you are not going to deny my mother of attending my wedding the way you did last time. I want her there, so you can go and do whatever it is you just happened to plan for today, without her, for once."
My father's eyes hardened on me and his nostrils flare in anger. "No, you listen. You will not disrespect me like this. I'm your father and I didn't raise you this way."
"You didn't raise me, you trained me. To be your perfect little clone. And you have nearly destroyed my life in doing so, and I am done allowing you to," I seethe and he appears momentarily stunned that I am not backing down from him as I used to. "Respect is earned, Father. Not commanded. I have tried so hard to be everything you expected me to be and it doesn't matter to you. You've robbed me of a mother for my entire life, but not today. I will have her there this time and there's not a damn thing you can do about it. And Bella is the best thing that ever happened to me, and I know what happiness is because of her. She's not my servant or my possession, she is my wife. But because I allowed you to fuck with my head all these years, I've hurt her so badly that I almost lost her."
"Don't blame me because, like your brother, you allowed a woman to walk all over and completely emasculate you," my father sneers at me, taking my mother's arm and pulling her to his side. "Now I suggest you leave my house immediately. Your mother and I have things to attend to, and you wouldn't want to be late for your little … whatever it is you want to call this thing."
"I am not leaving without my mother," I reply flatly and glace over to her briefly, before returning my gaze to my father. "Mom, let's go, please."
"Your mother does not wish to attend this farce," my father grinds out through clenched teeth.
"Yes, I do," my mother finally speaks up and we both look over to her, finding tears spilling down her cheeks as she turns her gaze up to my father. "He is my son and I love him, Carlisle. And I want to see Edward get married. I don't want to miss this again."
My father's glare at her is so fierce, I am almost afraid that it will cause her to back down from him again. His hand tightens on her arm as she tries to remove it from his hold and she winces when it pinches her skin. "You are not going, Esme."
"Carlisle, stop. Please, you're hurting me," she cries out with a sob and it is the last straw for me.
"Get your goddamn hands off my mother!" I snarl and my father's eyes are dazed, staring down at the vice grip of his fingers just above her elbow. His hold slowly loosens until he finally releases her and she stumbles back from him with tears streaming down her face. "Mom, go. Pack your things, I need to get you out of here. You can stay at our place, if you'd like."
"Esme," my father breathes out, watching her as she backs away from him to make her way up the stairs quickly.
I step in front of him as he moves to follow her, blocking his path and shaking my head. "Stay the hell away from her. If there is one decent thing you ever did teach me, it was that you never lay your hands on any woman like that, let alone your wife. After all she's done for you, stood beside you through all your bullshit for thirty years, even above her own children at times. And you have the nerve to treat her this way, and then talk about my relationship with Bella? At least I know that my wife loves me with all her heart, and not out of fear. Can you say that? You're pathetic."
My father seems to have no reply, his entire body frozen as I've never seen before. He tries several times to utter my name, but fails with each attempt.
"Edward, please stop," my mother's voice carries softly down the stairs and we both look up to her. She is wearing a long cream dress with no sleeves and I can feel my eyes burn with fury as I spy the reddened welts rising on her skin in the shape of my father's fingers. "I'm fine. Let's go before we're late."
My gaze returns to my father and my breaths grow heavy, my fists clenching at my sides. "I should mop the floor with your ass. Is this how you think I should 'keep my wife in her place'? Manhandling her like a piece of meat?"
"Sweetheart, please, let's go," my mother repeats gently from beside me, sliding her hand around my arm.
I slowly step back from my father with her guidance, but never relax the sneer I feel curling my lip. "You're the one who'll lose, Dad. And I feel very sorry for you."
Moving to step around him, I keep myself between him and my mother, with my arm around her waist and lead her out to the car. We ride for several minutes in silence until I hear her sniffle softly and I glance over to find her face streaked with tears.
"Are you okay, Mom?" I ask and she nods in response, wiping her fingers beneath her eyes. Questions are burning to be asked, but I can't bring myself to speak again. My jaw is tense to the point of pain and my fingers are gripping the steering wheel so tight, I can almost feel it molding around them.
"He's never done anything like that before, Edward. I swear," she says, seemingly answering my unspoken thoughts. "Your father may be a lot of things, but he's not that kind of man."
"Obviously, he is," I grind out and my jaw tightens even more. "I've never understood how you could let him treat you that way. Or your kids. And I don't think I ever will."
"I love him. I know he wasn't the best father, and for that, I am more sorry than you could ever know. But he's not a bad man," she replies and I scoff, rolling my eyes. "And he does love you and your brother very much."
"Yeah and he's made that so obvious by constantly reminding us of what a disappointment and embarrassment we are to him," I grumble, cracking my neck from the tension built up within it. "You've heard him say these things. How does that equate to love?"
My mother sighs softly and then reaches her hand over to rest on my shoulder. "He doesn't show it the way he should. And neither did his father."
I shake my head and shift in my seat. "That's not an excuse, Mom. He didn't show me, but I still love and respect my wife, and I never treat her the way he treated you back there. I would die before I laid my hands on her. And I still treat my mother with respect. Hell, I've even given it to him."
"Do you believe that I love you, Edward?" my mother asks in a tentative voice, squeezing my shoulder gently with her fingers.
I pull into the driveway in front of my house and shift the car into park, drawing slow breaths through my nose as I cut the engine. My eyes close and I lean my head back against the seat, nodding. "Somehow, that's something I've never doubted, even if it wasn't clearly displayed. I wouldn't have asked you to come today if I didn't believe that to some degree."
I felt my mother's hand lower to mine and take it gently, folding her fingers around it until I hear her breath catch and she whispers, "Is that her?"
I turn my head to look at her again and her eyes are fixed on the house, and I follow her gaze to the front door. My lips finally loosen and a smile tugs at them when I spot my wife standing beside my brother. "Yes, that's my Bella."
I feel my mother's hand secure around mine and she exhales a shaky breath. I return my gaze to her again to finger her eyes welling and lips trembling as she gazes at the beautiful vision in our doorway. "I would really like to meet her."
I nod and break contact with her to get out, jogging over to the other side of the car to open her door. My mother's hand is shaking as she places it in mine and rises beside me, securing her hold on me as we walk toward the house. "Bella, I would like you to meet my mother, Esme. Mom, this is my wife, Bella."
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. Cullen," Bella replies with a soft, kind smile, holding a hand out to greet her.
My mother chokes out a sob and steps away from me, moving toward Bella and pulling her into a tight embrace. "It's so good to finally meet you."
Bella gazes at me, stunned by my mother's actions, but slowly brings her arms around her waist and hugs her in return.
"Thank you," my mother whispers, kissing Bella's hair and squeezing her more securely. "Thank you so much for loving my son."
I am pacing nervously as if I'm twenty years old all over again, and getting ready to vow my life to the woman I love for the first time. I'm actually sweating a little around my collar, but more out of anxiousness to see her, as if I hadn't only been apart from her for a matter of a couple of hours.
My mother is gazing up at me with the most genuine smile I can remember seeing on her in my entire life, as she leans against my brother's arm. My sister-in-law, Rosalie, is doing everything she can to wrangle their two children, despite her rapidly expanding waistline with number three, and get them settled into their seats. For the first time in as long as I could recall, despite my anxiety otherwise, I feel completely relaxed in the presence of my family.
And in that moment, my breath is stolen from me.
Those beautiful brown eyes I fell in love with more than a decade ago stare back at me from the doorway and I notice nothing else in the room but her. My smile grows as I watch those creases form around them; she's so happy, though I know it's not entirely caused by me, but for once, I don't mind sharing.
Part of it is due to the man walking beside her, covering her hand with his where it rests on his arm as he walks her to me, seemingly holding on as if he never wants to let go—Bella's father, Charlie.
Her relationship with her parents hasn't been nearly as strained as my own with mine, and it was obvious that it broke her heart when we got married without her father present. So when he told her that he wanted to come this time, I held her for an hour after she got off the phone with him as she cried; it meant the world to her, knowing that her father would be there to give her away when we renewed our vows.
And those tears are still glistening in her eyes as she walks toward me in that beautiful gown. She is absolutely breathtaking, and I feel like the luckiest man in the world for the second chance we've been given. Once they reach me, Charlie bends to kiss her cheek and slowly looks to me as he releases his hold on her, and then turns to take his seat beside her mother.
Bella and I repeat the vows we made to each other nearly eight years ago, promising to love and cherish each other for the rest of our lives. I thought I knew exactly how much I had to lose when I stood in front of her this way back then, but now, I realize I had no idea. I swear to myself that I will never give either of us reason to think on it ever again.
With our new rings in place and her hands set gently in mine, I lean forward to press my lips to hers. Bella whimpers as I part from her and I smile as the hint of a blush touches her cheeks, giving her fingers a gentle squeeze.
"I love you, Bella," I whisper with our foreheads pressed together and gaze into her eyes.
They roll back to force away tears but her smile is radiant as she looks back at me. "I love you, too."
Our fingers weave together and we turn to make our way back down the short aisle, and I take in my surroundings. My mother had long wet trails streaming down her face, leaning into my brother's side, and I have to admit, it feels good to see her so happy. Emmett has his arm around her shoulders, with his other being held by Rosalie, and he smirks at me with a wink. Charlie visibly clears his throat when Bella's mother nudges his arm, giving us a nod as we pass him, but managing a smile when Bella mouths "Love you, Dad."
Finally, my life feels damn near close to perfect. Surrounded by my family and the woman I love more than anything in the world beside me and seeming just as happy to be there as I am to have her.
"Okay, close your eyes," I instruct Bella as we're about to reach our destination, and she gives me a suspicious look. I can't help but smile and chuckle, before reaching my hand over to hers and giving it a gentle squeeze. "Trust me."
At that, she exhales softly, leaning her head back against her seat and closing her eyes with a smile. I'd be lying if I said that that small action from her doesn't still make me grin like a fool and cause my heart to race. She didn't hesitate for a moment to respond to the two simple, yet what could be such weighted words between us, and her hand squeezes mine in an affectionate gesture as I raise it to my lips to brush them on her knuckles.
I only release my hold on her long enough to park and make my way to her door, taking her other hand to help her out of the car. Her anxious anticipation is visible on her features, her eyes moving rapidly beneath her closed lids and her bottom lip held tight between her teeth. I gently raise my hand to her face and release it with my thumb, and immediately brush a soft kiss against it. "Relax, baby. There's nothing to be nervous about."
"Then can I open my eyes?" Bella asks in a teasing tone and my smile widens, slipping my arm around her waist and kissing her temple. She leans into my touch with a subtle, contented sigh and her entire body seems to relax into my side. "Or are you going to let me stumble around blind?"
I laugh and pinch her side lightly, and the giggle that sounds from her is so beautiful and endearing, I give in. "Yes, go ahead."
Bella draws in a slow breath before she opens her eyes and it stills abruptly. It is a rustic-looking bed and breakfast that seems to have grown into the trees and plant life surrounding it. The blend of browns amidst the green and other vibrant colors of the variety of flowers makes it feel as if we've stepped out of the real world and into our own personal fantasy, and that was exactly what I was aiming for when I started planning this little getaway with her. One week, away from everything, to do nothing but focus on each other and starting fresh.
However, when I glance over to my wife, her expression really doesn't give away much. Her eyes are flickering over her surroundings, and I feel her fingers trailing along my back, but my nervousness is getting the better of me. "What do you think?"
"I think," she replied softly, pausing to look up at me and secure both arms around my waist. "This is perfect, and I love you so much."
"I love you," I whisper in response, tilting my head down to press my lips to hers before sweeping her into my arms and causing her to shriek. Her arms encircle my neck tightly, but our kiss lingers as I begin carrying her up the front walk, until I need to break away to ascend the front steps without tripping and dropping her.
Bella's face nuzzles against my neck and I feel her fingertips running through the hair at my collar as her head lowers to my shoulder. The last time I carried her over the threshold this way, she'd rolled her eyes and laughed, calling it a silly tradition. Yet, even though we are not at our door yet, she is not laughing. She is not calling me old-fashioned, or squirming in my arms for me to put her down.
Her arms are secured around my shoulders, her ankles are crossed—she has as little intention of releasing me anytime soon as I do of her. It is a sentimental and important moment for the both of us. The ceremony was the new beginning for our marriage, and this is the fresh start of our lives together.
I finally reach the door to our room and I groan, and Bella gazes at me in question. "I really don't want to put you down, but I've just realized a little flaw in my plan to be romantic here. The key is in the inside pocket of my coat."
Her smile spreads across her lips and she brings one hand between us, sliding it inside my jacket and into the pocket. I feel her fingers bend and twist within it, finally gripping the object in question and retrieving it. "I thought you were going to tell me I've gotten too heavy for you or something."
It's obvious she's only joking, but I brush my lips on her jaw as she glides the key into the doorknob and turns it, gently pushing it open. "Not even close."
Bella releases a soft gasp as I cross the threshold with her in my arms, her eyes taking in our surroundings. She lingers for a moment when I set her feet on the floor, turning her head toward me with a smile before taking my hand and walking further into the room. Her eyes fall to the bed as we pass and her fingers gently tighten around mine, but she continues on through until we reach the doors leading out to the private deck.
The sun is beginning to set, creating a beautiful canvas of colors in the sky. My wife seems to be soaking in the sight as she makes her way to the railing and leans back against me when I step up behind her. We stand in silence with my arms wrapped around her, her fingertips tracing over the back of my hand while we stare out at the view.
"I can't believe it didn't rain. It really didn't look promising this morning," she says suddenly, tilting her head a little to press into my neck. "Remember our first wedding?"
"Like I could ever forget," I reply and her eyes turn to me, glancing up to meet mine. "Not only was it one of the best days of my life, but you also woke me up at four in tears because it was raining."
"In my defense, that wasn't just rain. That was a torrential downpour, with thunder, lightning, and I think I even remember hail. You're lucky that I didn't take that as a sign and call off the wedding," Bella responds with a laugh.
"You were so mad about those water stains on your dress," I recall with a chuckle, lowering my head and pressing my lips to the base of her neck. "Ever had any regrets about not taking the sign?"
Bella leans her cheek against me and lifts her hand to run her fingers through my hair and down my neck. "Never. Not for a moment. I wouldn't even trade the worst of times with you for better ones with anyone else. You were worth fighting for, and with. And I am more in love with you now than I've ever been. So no, I don't have any regrets about anything."
My gaze rises again and meets hers, and she draws me closer to press her lips to mine. I turn her body in my arms and tighten my hold on her, reveling in this moment we are sharing. "God, I love you, Bella."
Her hand threads into my hair and she releases a soft whimper, but her touch remains gentle, even as her nails scrape lightly along my scalp. "It's been a long day. I think we should go to bed."
The whispered words are followed by her fingers sliding down to my chest, and into the space between two of the buttons on my shirt. With the hint of a smile on her lips, she turns us toward the door, backing through it and guiding me along with her.
"No, leave it open," Bella says as I move to close the door, continuing to tug me back toward the bed. Suddenly, she stops and turns around, sweeping her hair off her neck and glancing at me over her shoulder. "Unzip me?"
I step closer and brush a kiss on the shell of her ear, slowly lowering the zipper on the back of her dress. "You looked so amazing today, baby."
"I wanted to be beautiful for you," she whispers in a shy tone, her face dipping slightly.
My fingertips rise to her chin and gently lift it, shaking my head when her eyes meet mine. "You are always beautiful to me, Bella. But you literally rendered me speechless today. I almost had to say my vows in nods and hand gestures."
A soft giggle emits from her as I brush her lips with mine, slowly guiding the dress from her shoulders until it flows down the rest of her body to the floor. She takes a step forward, removing her shoes as well, before turning to face me again and my eyes soak her in.
Bella is just as beautiful and flawless as she was on our wedding night all those years ago, and can still make me ache for her in a single glance. But words cannot describe how perfectly exquisite she is to me right now. Soft, white lace encompasses her breasts and hips, and my fingers are itching to remove all traces of it and touch every inch of her bare skin.
"Come here," she whispers, slipping her fingers through my belt loops and gently pulling me toward her. "What's wrong? You're looking at me like you haven't seen me in years."
Her statement and the perplexed expression on her face stirs me, and I raise my hand to gently graze her cheek. For so long, any intimate contact we made with one another had been in a dark room, behind closed doors and drawn curtains, more need than desire. And until a few weeks ago, I had almost completely forgotten what it was like to watch my wife's face as I made love to her. To look into her eyes and see how much she loved me, and for her to see the same reflected in mine.
Too long—and never again.
"Nothing's wrong. At all," I reply and she watches me warily s she begins to unbutton my shirt. Once she reaches the bottom, I shed the garment from my shoulders and let it fall to the floor, instantly taking her face in my hands as her fingertips explore my chest. "I swear, everything is absolutely perfect."
Bella hums against my lips as they meet hers, wrapping her arms around my back and curling her body into mine. We slowly continue to undress one another, pausing only for brief moments to gaze at each other or share a kiss. And when we finally lower together onto the bed, she shivers, yet pulls me close to her.
"Please, don't," Bella breathes out, as if knowing I am about to rise to go shut the door, opening her eyes to look up at me. "It feels good."
A gentle, cool breeze ghosts over my back as our bodies come together, and I have difficulty keeping my gaze where I want it, on Bella, with how good it actually does feel. It heightens the warmth of every touch, and even leaves a strange sensation running over my skin in the trails of her fingers running along my shoulder blades as we begin to move. It changes everything about that moment. The scent of the air and even the view of my wife, blowing tiny wisps of hair around her face. She's absolutely enchanting, and I finally hold my focus exactly where it belongs.
The woman I will love and cherish for the rest of my life. My world and my future lying here beneath me at this very instant. My beautiful, amazing Bella.