Chapter 31


The rest of weekend one of Coachella seemed to pass by in a hazy blur. Whenever I thought back to those three days, my mind would only ever stick on the famous French phrase 'La Vie en Rose' - loosely translated to 'life in pink'. The real meaning, of course, is a state of bliss wherein everything appears rosy and lovely, associated with a feeling of being deeply in love.

It was the only way to fully describe how I'd felt, being with Edward, having him love the song I'd written for him. Having him love me.

It was the feeling I held onto in the two months between Coachella and Edward's graduation party, which Esme and Carlisle had kindly invited me to – though, they wouldn't be in attendance themselves - inadvertently surprising their son with my presence in the process.

Emmett had offered to pick me up from the airport, giving me a ride home where we'd both gotten showered and changed for the get-together being held at the Cullens' residence.

"Bella!" Alice yelled upon throwing the door open to my room, causing a smile to take over my face as I watched her skip towards me before ensnaring me in a hug. As expected, she only pulled away for enough time to appreciate and subsequently compliment my outfit.

It was a rather simple satin, black A-line dress arriving mid-thigh, with thin straps and a V-neckline, showcasing the slightest amount of cleavage. On my feet were matching black heels, which Alice seemed particularly approving of.

"Are those the new Louboutins?" her eyes widened microscopically, as I smirked, not even surprised anymore at her innate ability to guess the designer of every one of my articles of clothing.

"They might be," I laughed, hearing a knock at the door and seeing Rosalie appearing much more tentative to come in. That was the difference between her and the pixie – she was hyperaware of invading other people's space. Though I couldn't say I'd ever minded when Alice had up and waltzed into my room without so much as a 'Can I come in?'.

"You look gorgeous," I beamed, looking over Rosalie's outfit, and seeing her immediately strike a pose in response.

It was a matching burgundy two-piece – a crop top arriving just a couple of inches below the bust, with a pencil skirt beginning at the waist and ending at the lower end of the thigh.

"So do you," she shook her head, looking me over before coming to wrap her arms around me – much more gently than our other friend had, I might add.

"As usual," she rolled her eyes when she eventually pulled away, causing my smile to widen, before I looked back over to Alice, retouching her hair in the mirror. Once spotting that our moment of reacquainting had ended, she quickly snatched the silver purse to match her outfit, which was a fitted long-sleeve, ending a couple of inches above the knee.

"Ready to party?" she placed a hand at her hip, lifting an eyebrow as me and Rosalie shared a look. I couldn't say that either of us were, but the next words out of my mouth were:

"Let's go," I nodded easily.

"On a scale of one to ten, how surprised do you think he'll be to see you?" Emmett wondered from the driver's seat of the Jeep, with Jasper riding shotgun, and the girls and me seated comfortably in the back.

I shot the others a look of uncertainty, "Does he really have no idea?" I'd made up an excuse to account for my lack of messaging and FaceTiming whilst I'd been making the trek from Los Angeles to Forks. But I wasn't sure how convincing my 'fashion show in Milan' cover story had gone over. He hadn't seemed suspicious, but…

"Oh yeah… no clue whatsoever. If he'd had a choice in the matter, he wouldn't even be having this graduation party," Alice rolled her eyes.

"All he's been doing this past week is counting down the days until New York," Jasper supplied in explanation, as my mouth fell open ever so slightly.

"Really?" I asked, looking to the other occupants of the car who all immediately began to share secret looks with one another.

"Really. I think his excitement over seeing you again has caused his nerves to dwindle away," Rosalie stated matter-of-factly, as my shoulders began to drop. The corners of my lips were pulling upward as I thought back to when I'd first invited him to be my date at the Met Gala. Quite simply, he hadn't done a wonderful job at concealing his fears with regards to making his first red carpet appearance.

"I don't know what I'm supposed to do with my hands," he'd lifted his arms to the camera, causing me to purse my lips to hold in a laugh. Then one of his hands had gone to his neck as he looked away from the screen, "I'm going to look terribly awkward, Bella. Just… go with someone else."

"But, I don't want to go with anyone else," I'd shot him a sad smile, "Look, if you really aren't interested, I understand. But if you're just worried about looking out of place…" I'd shaken my head, then, "Trust me, it's not so bad. I mean… I've gotten used to it. That has to mean something."

That, thankfully, had gotten him to loosen up ever so slightly, becoming more open to the idea of dressing up in a tux and escorting me at the Met, posing for countless pictures during that walk into the museum. A couple of days later, he'd formally agreed to be my date – apparently, I was a tough person to turn down. His words, not mine.

It was kind of thrilling to note that despite all of that (rightful) anxiety over such a publicized social event, he was more fixated on having the opportunity to see me again.

My heart did a small flutter as I turned to look out through the window, watching as we climbed up the winding dirt road, encased by trees on both sides, before coming to a slow stop amidst at least a dozen vehicles. Which didn't seem that intimidating until I'd realized that most of the occupants had carpooled.

As we all glided out of the Jeep, Emmett apparently seemed to take note of my expression, coming around to my left to sling an arm around my shoulder. "It's cool," he beamed, "Most of them will be too drunk to realize that Bella Monroe is at a high school graduation party."

My eyes immediately flashed up to his, as I let out a short laugh, shaking my head, "I hope you're right." To be fair, I hadn't really given this part of my plan that much thought. My attention had been laser-focused on one thing, and one thing only.

As I gathered a deep breath, the others shuffled me along towards the front door, stepping swiftly inside among a small crowd milling at the entryway. They all seemed noticeably buzzed, clutching red cups, smiling and laughing every couple of seconds. It was pretty amusing, actually, until one began to clutch her stomach, racing out the way we'd come in.

Following a slight shudder, I followed along, slowly getting the sense that Emmett had actually known what he was talking about, after all. Not a single pair of eyes stayed fixed on me for any longer than they wandered between the group of us friends.

The furniture had been cleared out of the living room, leaving an open space, which was relatively packed, but not 'fans-waiting-outside-a-venue' packed. There was a huge difference.

Rosalie and Alice stayed at my side, and though there wasn't any threat or reason for me to feel nervous in any way, I appreciated the company while the boys plucked off and began to socialize. It wasn't really that much of a surprise when, within a few seconds, a loud roar lifted through the graduating high schoolers upon seeing Emmett. I'd been enlightened about just how popular he'd been at Forks High, pulling pranks left, right and center.

Amongst all of the confusion, my eyes shifted to a group of four, standing near glass doors leading to the backyard. Without any kind of warning, my stomach began doing somersaults, and my entire body felt like it had just been stuffed into an oven.

There he was, dressed in a light grey shirt, the sleeves arriving at his wrists, giving him a slightly more structured appearance than what I was used to. He'd paired it with dark washed jeans and Oxfords, contrasting wonderfully with his vibrant bronze-coloured hair.

I continued to watch, unable to control the smile that began to work its way across my face, hoping to stop myself from grinning like a crazy person while he continued to carry on his conversation with a girl significantly shorter than him, and a couple standing just to his right. He had one hand in his pocket, the other holding what I assumed to be a non-alcoholic beverage.

Most interesting, but quite unnerving of all to note was the smile on his face as he listened to the girl with light brown hair seeming to prattle on and on about something. I'd never seen him look quite so… forced, before. The smile clearly didn't reach his eyes, and it didn't take long for me to note that it was a sight I didn't ever want to behold again.

"That's Jessica," Alice supplied for me, almost making me jump, having momentarily forgotten that I wasn't the only one standing there, watching him.

"And Lauren and Tyler," Rosalie continued on, a look of pure revulsion taking over her features as I was reminded of the story pertaining to the reason for her hatred of the pair.

I'd seen all three of them back when I'd FaceTimed Edward those months ago, but Jessica had pretty much been the only one to leave somewhat of a lasting impression on me, given her incredible deduction skills. I probably would've recognized her if I hadn't been viewing her side profile, along with Edward's.

"So, I guess we'll leave you to reunite with your lover boy," Rose began to smirk, lifting an eyebrow as I opened my mouth in slight protest, before simply shaking my head with a smile, "Yeah, you guys go ahead."

As I looked back over at the group of Edward and his acquaintances, I felt myself take a deep breath, wondering how I was going to approach him, and feeling just the slightest bit out of my element. As much as I hated how awkward he looked, I couldn't very well interrupt he conversation he was sharing, even though he looked like he would've preferred jumping off of a very tall building instead.

I stifled a laugh at that sudden thought, before watching as his head turned and his eyes casually flickered in my direction, no doubt feeling the burning pair of eyes that had been on him for the past minute or so. Almost as quickly as his eyes wandered, they immediately returned to Jessica, continuing to feign interest in whatever she was saying before it looked as though the realization of what his eyes had come across just before suddenly dawned on him.

His eyebrows began to crinkle, still looking at Jessica, but even more unfocused than before, as I pulled my bottom lip in between my teeth, feeling my heart beginning to race.

His head moved slowly – painfully so – his eyes following at the same speed, as they moved from the floor, arriving at the level of my shoes across the room from his.

Deliberately, they wandered upward, following the length of my bare legs, to the hem of my dress, continuing slowly, his mouth dropping open more and more along the way.

When his eyes finally met mine after what felt like a hundred years, he blinked once, twice - attempting to clear his head, it seemed.

My smile widened as I lifted a hand, wiggling my fingers and watching as his body finally snapped into action following that simple motion from me.

"Excuse me," I saw him say to Jessica, who, it was only then I noticed, had been watching me with a similar expression of disbelief, before looking back to Edward, currently crossing the room swiftly. He didn't even pause as he rested his cup down on the nearest table, let alone take his eyes off of me, as he continued closer until he was well within my reach.

Before I could say anything, greet him in any way, his hands came to rest on either side of my face, as his head dipped down to meet me in a kiss – which I guess was a greeting of its own. The action was so incredibly spontaneous that it obviously caught me a little bit off guard, but after about a second, against his lips, I found myself smiling.

My hands reached around his torso, kissing him back and once again finding myself remembering how good it all felt. I wondered how on earth I'd survived for months without this feeling he brought out in me.

His tongue glided its way familiarly through my mouth as mine twisted with his, feeling his hands slide easily through my hair before I found myself unable to ignore my annoying urge to breathe.

I broke away short of breath, looking straight towards him and watching that there was still the slightest bit of shock shining through his emerald eyes.

"You're really here," he whispered, one hand coming back to stroke my face as I continued to smile, nodding slowly, "Surprise," I grinned, thinking back to when he'd done the very same thing to me. Was he feeling all of those emotions I'd felt back in October?

"It really is… I'm still midway between thinking that I just have a really vivid imagination," he began to chuckle, as a laugh escaped my lips, before he began to say, "I'm going to need confirmation that other people see you, too," and it was kind of amazing how, just as those words left his mouth, I suddenly noticed the majority of the eyes in the room had come to rest on the two of us, still wrapped up in each other.

So much for being lowkey.

"Okay, great," he let out a relieved sigh, before finally seeming to spot Emmett and the others, sending them a wave in greeting as a couple of high schoolers started whispering excitedly to each other, pulling out their phones and pointing them at me. Some appeared to be much too inebriated to do anything but stare with squinted eyes, and others sent me a mere smile, going back to their conversation. Edward smoothly slid his hand into mine, tugging me gently and leading me to a few people he felt it was necessary I meet – not really because they were important people in his life, but more to be polite than anything.

I spent at least a minute chatting to Jessica, completely blown away that she'd decided to study psychology with a minor in criminology after my compliment regarding her detective skills. Speaking frankly, it would be a highly fitting career choice for her.

Angela and Ben were definitely my favourite people of the bunch that Edward had gotten acquainted with over the year in Forks, seemingly genuinely happy to meet me. We talked a bit about Divergent, and I gave them news that the trailer would be out sometime this month, with the movie premiering in late October. Both were enthused to see what all of our hard work had produced, especially curious about Edward's acting chops, which I assured them were very real.

His arm remained comfortably settled around my waist as he shook his head bashfully, planting a sneaky kiss on my cheek for the praise, as Ben and Angela shared a look with one another.

"You know, it really is something else watching how different he is when he's with you," Ben lifted both eyebrows, turning to me, causing me to then look up at Edward, seeing that he was shooting his friend a questioning look of his own.

"Not that you're a horrible person, or anything," he hurried to say, laughing towards Edward, as Angela touched her boyfriend's arm, rolling her eyes, "What Ben is trying to say, is that although you're a wonderful person as an individual, Edward," she smiled, "the mention of Bella, let alone her presence just makes you… I don't know." She struggled to find a word for it, settling for, "You're just… truly happy. You both are."

She shrugged, "It's nice to see that."

I tilted my head to the side, starting to smile at the explanation, "Thank you, Angela." I'd heard a variation of her words a couple of times, around our friends, but I'd only really gotten a sense of it tonight, seeing the way he was when he wasn't with me. I'd gotten used to the crooked grin, the sparkling eyes. I hadn't known that there was a version of him where those two things were a rarity, and I hoped that along the way in our relationship, they wouldn't become one.

Edward's grip on me tightened, and my eyes wandered back up just in time to see him looking down at me, still filling me with that overwhelming sense of love and warmth.

"Yeah, she brings out the best in me," he was speaking to his friends whilst keeping his green eyes smoldering mine. I really had been trying my best to slow down on the PDA what with his whole class surrounding us – the last thing I wanted to do was rub our relationship in anyone's face. But it was unbelievably difficult not to kiss him following that declaration, and he didn't seem to mind the short peck on the lips from me. Well, rather, he'd been inclined to deepen it.

And, really, that was how the rest of the night ended up passing. Edward seemed much more animated with regards to entertaining his guests (once he maintained some kind of physical contact between me and him), and towards the end of the night, when the majority of the partygoers had dispersed, Jasper, Alice and the others fell into a circle on the floor, and Edward pulled me down with him so that I was lying against his chest, seated between his legs.

We didn't talk much about anything, really – just sat there, enjoying each other's company. Any of the mess that had been made had been cleaned up, and we continued to talk, reminiscing, talking about future plans - just normal friend stuff.

During one of the lulls in conversation, I felt Edward's breath move towards my ear, lowering his volume, "Have I told you lately how much I love you?"

Before I knew it, I was struggling to keep the cheeky grin off of my face as my head swiveled to get a view of his, "Yes… but I never get tired of hearing it."

Almost instantly after, "I love you, Bella," he said seriously, looking at me like he'd never meant those words more in his entire life. And as usual, it felt distinctly as though I was going into cardiac arrest, as I lifted my shoulders with my next breath.

"I love you, too, Edward," I matched his volume, hoping to match the emotion he was currently conveying before I gently pressed my lips against his. I knew without a doubt that I would do anything for him, and it was something else entirely knowing that he would do the same for me. Because there wasn't anyone else I wanted the way that I wanted him. He was my best friend, but he was also the guy I wanted to kiss for as long as I lived.

"How are you?" I wasn't making small talk, I really was concerned about Edward's well-being as we sat in the back of the vehicle, making our way through the bustling streets of New York City to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"I'm fine," he nodded simply, leaning his head against the seat as he turned to face me, focusing entirely on my own face. Ever so naturally, his hand intertwined with mine as they rested on my thigh, currently covered in a gown designed by Calvin Klein for the occasion. My hair had been straightened, thrown to the back to give a full view of the dress that had been fitted onto me.

I had quite a strong suspicion that my outfit was a large part of the reason Edward hadn't had nearly enough focus to think about our impending walk along the red carpet.

Though it was long-sleeved with somewhat of a high neck, it was anything but basic, fitted perfectly to enhance every curve of my body before finally falling at the knee so that I didn't have any trouble walking. Not only was it completely form fitting, but the designer had also added a couple of details to make the already exciting number garner that much more attention.

It had been entirely embezzled with crystals, a green so emerald they matched Edward's eyes perfectly, and at my sides, the dress had sort of disappeared, save for a few green crisscrosses. Essentially, there was quite a bit of side boob action going on, though it wasn't too noticeable unless I was pictured from the side – which would be happening along the walk.

Edward had had some trouble controlling his appreciation for the outfit, opening his mouth several times as his eyes roamed over my body. I'd had to try my best to control my own expression when his face had gone red – completely red – and he'd begun tripping over his words in an attempt to let me know how beautiful I looked.

His expression and reaction alone had made that fact pretty obvious, and I'd felt like I was floating from it all.

It had really made me wonder what would've happened had I been showing even more skin – which had been an option, mind you.

Of course, he'd cleaned up quite handsomely himself, dressed in a fitted Burberry tux, with his hair slightly tamed.

I'd pecked him gently on the lips as Kevin led the way down the hall and out the lobby doors where we were met with a swarming crowd of paparazzi, separated from us by several barriers. Given the fact that the majority of the celebrities had been put up in the same hotel, the attention had been anticipated.

"Bella, you look amazing!" I'd heard a member of the crowd scream, as he continued to snap away on his camera and I'd sent him a smile, bowing my head in thanks for the compliment.

Edward's hand had been clutching onto mine as more compliments were fired at the two of us, and he opened the door for me, ensuring that I got in all right, before going around to the other side so that I wouldn't have to shift over in my outfit.

As I'd sat up straighter in my seat, I'd heard him stifle a groan as he was given a clearer view of my side, and in turn, I'd felt my cheeks go up in flames.

And well, the duration of the drive had pretty much been spent with him glancing over at me every couple of seconds, before shaking his head and sighing to himself. The whole thing had had my ego inflated to an all-time high.

Even now, I could tell he was attempting to be polite, refraining from glancing at the skin I was broadcasting, and my overall figure, which was very much being shown off in the dress that fit me like a glove. Of course I didn't mind the attention one bit – it gave me rush seeing how easily I could fluster him - but I could also see that he was only trying to keep his manners in check.

As I snapped back into the present, "Just… stay by my side, if you want," I advised him, knowing full well that it would be whole lot less awkward finding a way to position his hands when he had my waist or my hand to hold onto.

He looked the slightest bit surprised at my advice, cocking an eyebrow, "I wasn't planning on leaving it." More to himself, he muttered, "Especially not when you look like that."

I bit down hard on the inside of my cheek, heating up once again as Edward continued to stare, before apparently catching himself and once again sighing deeply.

By the time we arrived at the carpet, Edward began to show his anxiety for a split second, before seeming to distract himself with the act of getting out of the vehicle and coming around to help me out. I grasped onto the hand he'd offered, as he placed a hand on my waist, providing me with even more support as I planted both feet on the ground.

Everything had been going quite smoothly as we made our way along the first bit, until I felt the distinct sensation that the belt buckle of my shoe had caught in the dress.

I paused in my walk, feeling Edward come to halt beside me, looking over to find what had caused me to stop so abruptly.

Once seeing my eyes fixated on the end of my dress, as I attempted to break the shoe free, he promptly kneeled down, keeping one hand on my thigh to ensure my stability as the other hand slipped around my feet, taking no time at all to unhook the buckle from its entrapment.

"Thank you," I beamed down at him, as he stood up, flashing me a crooked grin as his arm snaked its way back around my waist. We turned towards the cameras fixed on either side of the carpet, smiling at each other for a moment before looking towards the flashing shutters. Though Edward was still slightly tense being around this many people and having his every move photographed, he wasn't showing it, at all.

He continued to lead me along the carpet, pausing at intervals to allow for more pictures in varying positions, but all with us standing together.

"We made it!" I whisper-cheered to him as we crossed the threshold into the actual museum, and his smile widened, shoulders noticeably slumping into a much more relaxed position.

"Couldn't have done it without you," his eyes glimmered as he looked me over, and my smile softened as I reached up to plant a kiss on his cheek.

Around my waist, I felt his hand slip in order to grab a hold of my hand, perfectly fitting into his smooth one, as we continued on through the slow-moving group of celebrities wandering around the spacious area.

There was an open bar and a couple of snack areas, leading to a narrow entrance into the actual exhibit, which the ball had been thrown to gain attention for.

A couple of associates approached the two of us, complimenting our attire as we sent our admiration right back. Most of the conversation was cordial, but a couple of my long-standing friends within the industry took time to get reacquainted, as I introduced them to Edward, who was ever polite, as usual.

"I'm going to get some water," he leaned down after about an hour of small-talk, resting a hand on my waist and once again grazing my skin in the process. It had been somewhat distracting on our walk down the carpet, but I'd been so wrapped up in the poses and the cameras I hadn't really noticed it too much, and apparently neither had Edward.

It was only this time around that he actually registered the fact that he was touching bare skin, blinking and seeming to fight off his urge to smile.

"Do you want anything from there?" he continued on as if nothing had happened, inclining his head towards the bar, as I answered with a smile of my own, "Yeah, just some water as well, thanks."

He pecked me gently on the lips, before departing and allowing me to move around a little more, towards the entrance of the exhibition.

My eyes caught sight of a couple of the pieces pertaining to this year's theme of China: Through the Looking Glass, and as I continued to look on, I felt a gentle tap on my shoulder, interrupting me from my viewing.

Naturally, I assumed it was just Edward, back with the drinks, so, as I turned, there was a small smile on my face, which pretty much fell away as my gaze fell upon tanned skin and gelled back hair, quickly making me feel distinctly as though as I'd just been submerged in water with no way to break free.

"Jacob," I practically croaked out, midway between taking a step back and going to turn around to search for Edward.

"Hi, Bella," his lips turned up in the awkwardest of smiles, as if this encounter was just as unsettling for him as it was for me. But really, it couldn't be. Because I was almost certain he wasn't standing there having flashbacks of me strangling him.

No, that was just me, of course.

The blood had drained from my face, and though I was comforted by the large crowd of people surrounding us, the effects of that night in Chicago had very clearly stayed with me, to the point where I couldn't remember how to stand normally without feeling like a snake coiled and ready to attack.

"Listen," he cleared his throat, looking down at his shoes, shining black and perfectly matching his hair, as I struggled to meet his gaze when it returned to my face.

"I wanted to thank you, for covering for me," my eyes, which had previously been wandering, suddenly froze, coming back to his face. I was pretty startled to see the sincerity in his expression, the somberness in his eyes. It was the first time I'd seen any sort of genuineness from Jacob Black, let alone directed towards me.

"You could've…", he paused, wanting to correct himself, "no, you should've gone to the authorities. You should've ruined my career for what I did to you, but I'm… so grateful that you didn't," he took a deep breath, his face contorting in an expression of pain, as he looked down to the floor again. His eyes were watering by the time he met mine again, and I wasn't even bothering to hide my surprise at the way this conversation seemed to be going.

I wasn't sure what I'd expected, but it hadn't been this.

"When I think about what I did to you… for something as stupid as a role, which I wasn't going to get in the first place," he shook his head, "I'm horrified and disgusted at myself, for hurting you... for almost…" he couldn't finish his sentence, dropping off mid-sentence, as I began to hold my breath, "I am so sorry for hurting you, Bella, and I don't expect you to forgive me-"

"Good, because forgiveness is the last thing that you deserve," a cool voice appeared from beside me, cutting Jacob off from his apology, as my eyes widened fractionally, my body going even more rigid hearing the ice in Edward's voice.

Jacob's dark eyes shifted to Edward, who he hadn't had the pleasure of meeting until now – it was probably a blessing in disguise.

Instead of shutting up and walking away, which was probably what he should've done upon receiving that sort of cold reaction from my boyfriend, he plowed on, looking towards Edward this time, "I understand-"

"No, you don't understand," Edward cut him off, tiredly. "You don't understand what it was like to see bruises covering her body, fear in her eyes. You don't understand the feeling of knowing that there wasn't any way to help her, or get justice for the things that had happened to her. You don't understand the feeling of seeing her abuser getting praised. You don't understand being worried beyond belief every time you touched her, that you were adding to the pain that had been inflicted upon her. You don't understand any of that, and you never will," I'd never heard a hardness in his voice so strong, let alone a burning rage in his eyes so bright. The words… I couldn't let go of them, hearing them reverberate through my mind as I relived everything that we'd been through. But hearing how it had affected him, out loud, instead of in my head… that brought on a whole new set of agony as I forced myself to look away.

"I really am… sorry. I haven't had a thought to touch a drink, or do anything else, since then. I'm completely sober now, and I don't intend on changing that," Jacob looked just as winded from Edward's words as I was, but the difference was that he was stupid enough to keep talking, and Edward wasn't allowing any of it.

"Getting clean was the least that you could've done," he continued in that frigid tone, though his expression remained neutral to the point where anyone looking in on the conversation would think we were discussing the weather.

"If you ever come within fifty feet of Bella again, I will not hesitate to make you feel an unimaginable amount of pain, in addition to making sure that no one holds an ounce of respect for you ever again. I have pictures of what you did, and I'm not afraid to use them if you give me cause to," this time, Edward made sure that his words resonated through to the actor, to the point where Jacob's entire body went stiff as a board, eyes wide, immediately turning away and walking to return to his date, Leah, who'd been looking in on our interaction from afar with panic in her eyes.

My ears felt like they were buzzing, and my head was throbbing. I could barely focus on the fact that Edward had outstretched his hand for me to take my drink of water.

It was only when I hesitated to reach for it that he seemed to notice the heed I'd paid to his words, his expression shifting from detachment to one of concern.

"I'm sorry," he stepped in closer, shaking his head, "I shouldn't have said all of that in front of you."

"You're sorry?" I let out a frustrated sigh, "I'm sorry, Edward. I'm sorry for everything, for putting you through what I did." I could feel my face beginning to turn red, and I forced myself to gather a deep breath to control my emotions before I began crying.

I breathed, "This isn't exactly what you signed up for, when you decided to date me."

Edward was staring at me, unblinkingly, with an expression on his face that was morphing more and more into one of weary incredulity, "This is exactly what I signed up for, Bella." Again, he stepped closer, setting our drinks on a passing tray to allow his hands to settle themselves on my waist.

"I never imagined that being with you would be easy, and even still… I wanted it. I signed up to be with you, through thick and thin," his voice had gone gentle, though his eyes were solemn, "Yes, the Jacob debacle was kind of a curve ball, but I've never regretted any of this. And I never will."

My eyes shut, knowing that if I continued looking into his eyes, seeing the adoration there, the waterworks would start, and they probably wouldn't stop for a very long time.

I simply couldn't wrap my head around how unflawed the man standing in front of me was. Most of all, I couldn't fathom how blessed I was to have stumbled upon him a year ago.

"Let's go home," I managed out in response, finally blinking open my eyes and seeing that the anxiety had returned to his expression from the suddenness of my request.

"Okay," he swallowed, "Are you sure?"

It was hard not to smile then, knowing where his train of thought was going, and knowing that mine was on the opposite end of the spectrum. I even let out the slightest of laughs when next I met his eyes, "Yes. I'd like to be with you without all of these people surrounding us."

A/N: Aww :)

Aaaaand, it's pretty much over!

I really wanted to wrap up the Jacob drama and let you guys know that he wasn't going to ever be a problem for them again. I also liked writing that little bit with Edward – angry, protective Edward is a highly attractive Edward.

Again, so sorry for the late update, but you know… school, midterms. I also really wanted to make sure I covered everything I wanted to within this last chapter. If I didn't, let me know!

The epilogue will probably be coming at you guys this weekend, to make up for the wait for this one. It's already been written, so that will be for sure.

As always, please let me know your thoughts on this chapter/the story overall! I've appreciated all of your reviews so much through the duration of this story. You guys are amazing!