A/N: Song choice: This Love by Taylor Swift
Chapter 18 – This Love
Edward and Bella kept in almost constant contact with texts, calls, and emails. They were getting to know one another again—trying to regain the bond that had been severed.
Conversations were kept lighthearted and always ended on a positive note. Bella sensed Edward was on the road to forgiveness, in fact, he told her so. Now she just needed to forgive herself.
Edward's thoughts were on Bella as he finished up the barn, adding a few touches he thought she'd appreciate, hoping that maybe someday he'd have her in his arms again—permanently. Though he wasn't one hundred percent sure Bella would ever return to town, he was sure this project had literally saved him from self-destruction, helping him direct his thoughts of her in a more positive manner.
Edward was picking up his tools, putting them on the bar in the barn for tomorrow's workday when his phone pinged.
My feet hurt – B
Is that a hint? – E
Possibly. It's been a very long day. Catered a huge party –B
I can't help you tonight, but … -E
But … it's been a month since I last saw you and I thought I could pay you a visit. –E
A long pause without a text from Bella felt like a rock weighing heavy in the pit of Edward's stomach. It made him nervous. He quickly typed out another message.
If you want me to, that is –E
Bella had received another text, but this time, it was from Alice. She had no idea she had left Edward hanging and Edward's stomach did a few twists and turns thinking he had overstepped his boundaries.
Oh, sorry. Alice sent me a text and I was responding to her –B
So, how about it? –E
Can I call you? –B
Edward was nervous. It was the first time in their conversations he pushed the notion of wanting to see her again. Things had been going great, but for some reason he felt as though he fucked things up by asking if he could visit.
He picked his phone up on the first ring.
"Hi." Bella sounded tired, but just the one word lifted his spirits.
"Hi. I uh, I don't want you to think I'm being too forward. I understand if you'd rather not have me visit."
"No. I'd love for you to come here." Bella's heart sped up at the thought of Edward in Chicago visiting her. The possibility of spending uninterrupted time together had her reeling.
"Really?" Edward was partially shocked. They had really come a long way in the past month. For weeks though he had wanted to tell her he missed her pretty face and wanted to see her again soon. Thanks to her aching feet, his request was typed out on his phone and sent before he could second guess it.
"Really. I miss you."
His heart swelled; he was already typing his information in the computer as they talked. His flight was just a click away.
Bella continued, "I'm not leaving anything to the imagination. I'm going to be up front and honest from here on out, Edward." She paused, taking a deep breath. "I want you to do the same, okay?"
"Of course, B." He finished his transaction with a click. "That's the only way it's going to work between us."
Her heart fluttered. Was he thinking of her in that capacity? The thought of them reuniting and becoming a couple was a possibility that made her smile. She'd have to ask Laurent for time off but she had plenty more vacation days, so she didn't think it was going to be an issue.
"When you coming?"
"How about this weekend?"
"Perfect." She bit her lip, smiling. She wanted to squeal with delight but she also didn't want to look too eager.
The corner of Edward's mouth lifted in a smile. "Good deal, because the ticket is already booked and paid for."
The next few days flew by, and Edward found himself packing his duffle bag at the last minute with enough clothes to last the weekend. He couldn't believe he was actually getting on an airplane in less than four hours and would see Bella in seven.
He sent her one more text before climbing into his car to drive to the airport.
See you in a few hours Love –E
I'll be the one in the pink flower print dress –B
The thought of her in a dress turned him on. This wasn't the first time he thought of Bella and sex, but this weekend wasn't about that. They were rebuilding their foundation. If something extra happened it would be a bonus, but he wasn't holding his breath for any intimacy.
Being in her presence was enough.
Can't wait –E
Bella quickly cleaned her room, changing sheets and throwing laundry in the hamper. They hadn't discussed where Edward was going to stay, but she assumed he'd stay with her. They had slept together just fine at the Inn and nothing happened. It was completely platonic. They held one another—it was nice. It felt amazing. She hoped they could do the same thing this time, but she'd let him make that decision after she offered it to him.
Chicago was busy and perfect. Perfect because Bella had her arm linked through his as they walked to her car after retrieving his luggage. In Edward's mind anywhere with Bella was beyond perfection and he was looking forward to this weekend.
Edward popped the trunk of Bella's car, tossing his bag inside, and then walked to the driver's side to open her door.
Bella smiled. "Thanks, always the gentleman," she said, as she situated herself behind the wheel. Edward couldn't help but notice the ring—his ring—around her neck, shining brilliantly as the sunlight hit it just right through the windshield, it made him happy.
He shut the door and jogged to the passenger side so they could leave.
After a late lunch, they did the touristy trip to see The Bean and a few other interesting sites. The afternoon was carefree with casual hand holding and a multitude of laughs at inside jokes. The familiarity of it all felt wonderful.
Bella and Edward drove in a comfortable silence to her house in the suburbs. She popped the trunk of her car after parking in the driveway so Edward could grab his bag. They were headed up the walk when Laurent met them at the door. Bella hadn't told Edward the bit of information of how she rented the room from her friend—frankly, she had forgotten.
"Hi, Edward. Nice to see you again," Laurent greeted.
Edward looked at Bella with suspicious eyes. "Hey, man."
Bella realized at that moment she probably should have filled him in on her living arrangements. "I rent a room from Laurent. This is his house."
Edward nodded. A surge of jealousy coursed through him. It wasn't like they were a couple, but he assumed they were working on their relationship; and he was a bit stumped as to why she hadn't told him this piece of information.
She gripped his hand, leading him up the few steps to the front door. "I forgot to tell you, sorry."
"No problem." He shook it off and took a deep breath.
Bella and Edward entered the house, stopping for a second to shake Laurent's hand.
Bella wouldn't have invited Edward here, to stay with her, if she was the least bit interested in Laurent. He shook off his feelings of insecurity and followed her to her room to put his things down.
Edward shook off his feelings of insecurity and followed Bella to her room, putting his things down. The door closed, and he found himself wrapped in Bella's arms, her hands gripping him around his shoulders, hugging him to her.
"God, I'm so glad you're here."
She had reminded herself before Edward landed in Chicago that she was going to be upfront and honest. Whatever she was feeling when she was around him, she would follow through letting her gut and her heart guide her.
At this moment, she felt like hugging him and telling him how much she needed him.
Edward quickly wrapped her in his arms. The lavender fragrance of her hair warmed his nose and that alone made him breathe a sigh of relief.
She was in his arms.
"I am too."
They held one another for a few moments, swaying slightly until Bella pulled away. "Would you like a drink?"
"Actually, no. I'd really just like to be with you. Anything I say, or do, I want you to know it's all me and not any liquid courage I've consumed."
"I do have water ya know." Her laugh was music to his ears.
"Sure, that'd be great."
"All right then. Wanna watch a movie? I can pop some popcorn." Bella smiled at the sight of Edward standing in her little room, ready to spend time with her.
Bella was giddy, happy to be doing mundane things with Edward. It brought back their casual times at his house when they'd rent a movie, have dinner, and lounge on the couch until they both fell asleep. She longed to recreate that here in her room, with him.
Make new memories.
The popcorn was piping hot, and Bella giggled as Edward tossed pieces in his mouth. She felt secure in their little bubble, laughing, nudging one another just being themselves. They were in her bed sitting with their backs against her headboard and it felt normal—right. This was a feeling that she never thought she'd have again. Edward felt the same way. He loved when Bella jabbed at his side with her finger as he tried aiming the popped corn in his mouth. He was a pro and usually never missed a bite unless of course Bella was teasing him.
"Another movie? Or are you tired from your flight?" Bella asked. She was up to whatever Edward wanted. She had taken off work until Monday so she could stay up all night if he wanted to.
"I am a little tired." He rubbed his hand across the stubble on his face, and a yawn followed. "I'll sleep in the living room."
Bella frowned and he paused. He saw the look on her face and wondered if she wanted him in her bed.
"Or … I can sleep in here with you?"
Bella nodded, and a radiant smile returned to her face.
"I've missed you, Edward, and I'd really love for you to hold me."
Edward's heart raced under his ribs. He had waited so long to hear those words. Bella requesting him to hold her and to be with her in her bed, albeit just platonic, meant the world to him.
"Okay. But first I owe you a foot massage."
She snickered. "That's right. It'd be a shame for you to fly all this way and not touch my feet." Bella held her foot up and wiggled her toes.
"Give 'em here." He took a hold of her ankle and tickled the bottom of her foot until she wriggled away from him.
"No fair. You know I'm ticklish."
Edward winked, nodding, "I do."
After the exquisite attention he paid to both feet, they brushed their teeth and crawled back into her bed. Edward motioned for her to come to him and then kissed her forehead. She kissed his cheek and laid her head down on the pillow next to his; linking their fingers together they both fell asleep quickly.
The weekend went by too fast. They talked, they laughed, Bella showed off her culinary skills, and they promised more time together in the near future.
The weekend went by too fast. They talked and laughed. Bella even showed off her culinary skills in a romantic dinner for two, impressing Edward. The girl he remembered could get by in the kitchen but nothing was as mouth-watering as the perfectly grilled steaks with peppercorn sauce she had prepared for him. Not to mention the spinach soufflé that accompanied the main course. They promised to spend more time together in the near future over the sinful Banana's Foster they shared for dessert.
Broken pieces were falling back into place—they were content.
I made it back in one piece –E
I knew you would ;) –B
Thanks for letting me visit –E
Anytime. I miss you already –B
Next time you fly to me –E
Weeks and then months passed. Laurent had opened another restaurant in Chicago and depended on Bella to fill his position as head chef while he got things up and running at the new place. But even with endless days, Bella still found a little time every week to communicate with Edward.
By the end of the day she was tired, barely having enough energy to do anything other than bathe and sleep. She needed a vacation. Only a few more weeks and Laurent would be back, then she could schedule a visit to see Edward.
What are you doing in a few weeks? –B
Trick question? LOL –E
No. I think Laurent owes me some time off. I want to see you again. –B
Edward's heart pounded at the thought of Bella finally coming to visit him. The project was complete, and it sat there unused except for the few nights Edward tested the stereo system and enjoyed a few beers.
You're welcome here anytime –E
Two weeks time sped by quickly and before Edward knew it, he was driving to the airport to pick up Bella.
A glimpse of Bella through the crowd of disembarking passengers had Edward's heart pounding furiously with anticipation. To him, she was a vision. Her hair was swept up off her face and into a messy bun on top of her head. Her dark wash skinny jeans showed off her curves, making his fingers twitch to touch her again. She was oblivious to where Edward was standing to greet her, looking past him a few times as she scanned the people waiting for their loved ones. He made no move to wave his arms, drawing attention to his whereabouts, because he was enjoying the innocent way Bella tucked her lip under her top teeth while fiddling with the strap of her carry-on bag, draped over her shoulder.
She looked amazing.
Edward stood a few yards away, as she tapped on her phone, putting it up to her ear. He smiled knowing exactly who she was dialing.
"Hello?" Edward answered with a mischievous lilt to his voice.
"I'm here." Bella smiled, hearing airport noises through the phone, knowing Edward was near.
"Look straight ahead, Love."
Bella's heart fluttered with excitement when he called her by the nickname she loved so much. She looked up quickly knowing she would see Edward the moment she did.
Edward pushed off the wall he was leaning against as Bella ran to him, dropping her bag and throwing her arms around his neck.
She felt so good in his arms as he wrapped them around her waist embracing the girl that made him feel whole again.
"Oh my god, I've missed you," Edward whispered in her ear. He was talking more to himself than to Bella, but she heard anyway and nodded.
Edward released the tight hold he had on Bella and pulled back looking in her eyes. Their lips automatically crashed together in a heated kiss. The buzz of the airport swished around them as they continued their greeting, reacquainting themselves.
Edward loved the comfortable way they meshed—she felt like home. Bella loved the familiar and carefree way she felt in Edward's arms. There was no more tension in the air because many months of communication had helped dissolve any and all animosity they had felt in the past.
"Let's go home."
Edward picked up Bella's bag from the ground and flung it over his shoulder. His free hand quickly wound around Bella's back, keeping her close to him. He kept looking down, smiling at her, as they walked to baggage claim to retrieve her suitcase.
"I have something to show you," he said as they walked hand in hand to his truck.
He nodded. "I think I'm ready to show you what I've been up to for the last year or so."
Bella knew Edward had been working on a project but never pried because she felt it was none of her business. She figured if Edward wanted her to know then he'd tell her. He hadn't gone back to work since coming home—from his secret government job—instead working on something close to home, he had told her. That piqued her interest but again, she didn't ask many questions.
Edward told Bella to close her eyes when he took her hand, leading her to the barn—his secret project. He loved how she giggled and held on to him.
So far, the past few days together had been amazing, and he felt now was as good of a time as any to show her the barn.
"Okay, you can open your eyes." His voice was quiet, a moment of apprehension made his heart skip a beat, but he was completely sure now was the right time to show her the new and improved barn.
Before Bella opened her eyes she took in the sounds and smells and let them tease her. She didn't smell the familiar odor of hay or the oil and gas of the tractor. Instead, it smelled clean, new and when she finally peeked, opening her eyes fully, she was shocked at how different and beautiful it had become.
Edward watched as Bella slowly opened her eyes, wondering what was going through her mind as she took in the new appearance of what was once their sacred place where they made love and where he promised her forever.
They stood just inside the door and though Edward knew exactly what was inside, he felt as though he was experiencing the newness of it for the very first time—this time through the eyes of his Love.
Bella gasped. Everything was beautiful and beyond her wildest dreams of what Edward wanted to show her. Twinkling lights, wrapped around exposed rustic beams, caught her eye first. They looked romantic and set the stage for everything else her eyes fell upon. Reclaimed wood stained a deep, rich mahogany color stretched across the massive floor. Bella thought it would make the perfect dance floor. It reminded her of Tillie's, and her heart tugged at the memories of her and Edward on the dance floor at their favorite night spot. Edward squeezed her hand and pulled her gently to his chest, hugging her.
Bella nodded. "It's … beautiful." Her eyes scanned the room taking in everything. Booths surrounded the perimeter of the space.
And the bar … wow!
Bottles of liquor lined the hand carved, lit shelves sitting behind the most phenomenal bar she had ever seen. The top looked as if it were one continuous piece of oak slab, glistening under the dim lights overhead.
Bella turned in Edward's arms. "This is amazing. What …"
Edward looked deep into the brown eyes staring up at him. "This is only part of it. I have something else to show you." He loosened his arms around his Love and took hold of her hand, leading her to the kitchen. He paused briefly, closing his eyes, before pushing the stainless-steel double doors open. He took a step and stopped, then motioned for Bella to enter. Edward never took his eyes off Bella because he wanted to gauge her reaction.
And what a reaction it was. Bella gasped, covering her mouth with her hand. Edward beamed at her because this was the moment he had dreamed about for ages. This kitchen—a chef's kitchen, was for Bella. Every cut, nick, and bruise he endured during the building process was for her. Before she had a chance to say any words, he saw the look of approval on her face; his heart swelled with satisfaction. His heart was almost healed.
Bella's eyes swept from each piece of restaurant grade kitchen equipment, making her smile like a kid in a candy store. She felt Edward's gaze and looked up to see his loving stare—he hadn't taken his eyes from her beautiful face since they had walked into the kitchen.
"I did this for you, for us," he said as he ran the back of his fingers down her cheek. "We can start a restaurant, or rent the space out for weddings, or do whatever the hell we want with it." He put his forehead on hers. "It's yours to do whatever you want with it."
Happiness spilled over in the form of tears, pooling in Bella's eyes, and she choked back the lump in her throat. "I'm overwhelmed," she sniffed. "In a good way."
The love in Edward's heart overflowed at her response. "Say you'll stay, B. Say you'll be mine …only mine."
Bella wrapped her arms around Edward and nodded. She didn't realize this visit would turn into something more than just a get-together, fulfilling their longing for each other's company. It was way more than that. This right here, they were deciding on a future together. Or rather, it sounded like Edward knew exactly what he wanted; he was just waiting to hear Bella's answer.
It was up to her whether she would put the past behind her and consider him her one and only, once again.
"I've always only been yours." She threw her arms around his neck and crashed her lips to his.
Their kiss was needy, wanting and rough at first. Edward was claiming her as his, just as she was claiming him.
Edward, for the first time in forever, let himself relax in her embrace, soaking up all the love and affection she was giving. He had yearned for her touch, her undivided attention and her in his arms. This, Bella's reaction, was more than he ever could have expected.
His eyes, although closed, enjoying their passionate kiss, watered underneath his lids. He couldn't tamp down his emotions. He broke the kiss for a much needed breath of air, burying his nose into the sweet scent of his Love's neck.
"I love you, Edward," Bella whispered into the softness of his hair. She felt the way Edward sucked in breaths to keep his emotions in check, but she wasn't much different. Tears streaked her face with the magnitude of what was going on between them. What seemed like a little surprise for her, turned into a monumental turn of events. She had never in a million years expected this visit home to turn into a total reconciliation where she and Edward would be exclusive once again.
Bella's heart thumped happily. Edward lifted his head from the crook of her neck. "Mi ami sempre." Bella nodded, closing her eyes, thinking back to when he had first said those pretty words to her. Edward lifted her chin with his fingers. "Look at me, Love."
Her eyes opened to see the brightest smile she had ever seen. How could one smile, his smile, seep through her soul and warm her to the point of boiling. Edward had always held the key to her happiness. Yes, she was happy in Chicago working as a chef in one of the best restaurants in town, but it didn't make her feel the way the man standing in front of her, holding her with such love, made her feel. This was different. She could cook anywhere in the world, including here, so she made her decision.
"I'll stay." Bella wiped at the wetness under Edward's eyes. "I want you, Edward. There are no words to describe how much I've missed you." Edward mirrored her gesture and wiped the tears running down Bella's cheeks.
The pull was undeniable, their lips met in a slow sensual embrace. Their tongues tasting and exploring, teeth nipping and teasing, it felt like their first kiss. His hands ghosted over Bella's curves and settled on the swell of her behind, pulling her flush against him. Bella's fingers threaded through Edward's hair, gripping tightly as if she were afraid he would disappear.
"I'm not going anywhere," he muttered between kisses and her lips lifted in a shy smile.
"I never want to let you go." Her fingers relaxed and skimmed down his face until her palms rested on her chest.
"Whe … when?"
"When do you want me to move back?" Bella's smile was brilliant. It was a no-brainer. She'd move back and never regret her decision.
Edward bent down and scooped Bella into his arms. "How about I call Laurent and tell him he needs to find a new chef? Like I said, I'm never letting you go." Bella's eyes widened at his possessive but playful remark. "We can send for your things."
"Oh, my, gosh, are you serious?" Her hands cupped his face and when he nodded she planted another kiss firmly on his lips. "Okay."
Bella and Edward would remember this moment for the rest of their lives.
"It's funny you should say that, Bella." The tone in Laurent's voice was light and she could hear the smile over the phone.
"I'm sorry, I …"
Laurent cut his friend off. "I had a feeling this day would come, Bella. Didn't you ever wonder why I was working so closely with Gianna?"
"I guess I didn't."
"I was grooming her to take over your position."
"I'm happy for you, my friend. No worries on this end unless you decide not to keep in touch, and then you've got a problem." Laurent chuckled and Bella chimed in.
"You've been a good friend—the best, thank you."
The sun kissed the horizon as Edward woke from a deep sleep. His lips quirked up into a deliciously crooked smile, the memory of Bella asking if they could sleep in sleeping bags in the barn made his dick twitch. They hadn't done much sleeping.
He wanted her again and again.
Forever and ever.
Edward hadn't remembered a more peaceful rest in the past year and a half. When he woke he felt the weight of Bella's head resting on him, each breath she released ghosted over the smattering of hair on his chest, tickling him. The rise and fall of her bare breasts pressed into his side was heaven. The contact of her skin, magical—a dream he had wished a million times over to come true.
He watched his Love for a few minutes as she slept cradled into his body, warm and sated after making love nearly all night long. His eyes rested on the ring he had taken from her necklace and replaced it on her finger after one of their bouts of lovemaking. Edward had asked Bella again, this time under the twinkling lights strung above them, for her hand to be his. The depth of her response, in the form of her pushing him onto his back and her grinding her hips into his was remarkable. She whispered in his ear that she wasn't ever letting him go and that alone made him want to wake her this morning and relive the whole scene again and again.
He licked his lips and let his free hand gently trace the ink marking her hip—her surprise for him. The words fell easily from his lips as he whispered them into the air. These words, the one's he told her more times than he could count meant everything to him.
"Mi ami sempre."
Love me always.
His best friend, his Love, his forever.
Post Apocalyptic Depository, thank you for always being there to preread, and for your everlasting friendship. You mean the world to me. (((BIG HUGS)))
I'd also like to thank my incredible friend and beta, Daphne Edits for editing my words so they were pretty. Thank you for loving this story and believing in me. The best part is, she's sitting next to me now as I post this last chapter. (but not editing my A/N) lol
And to my readers, a huge thanks for those of you who stuck around waiting for my sporadic updates. I have appreciated the reviews, follows, favorites and recs.
You guys are the best!