TITLE: Port In The Storm

PAIRING: Edward/ Bella

GENRE (optional): Hurt/Comfort/Romance

AUTHOR NAME: S10

LINK TO YOUR FFN PROFILE:

WORD COUNT: 9492

SUMMARY: Edward and Bella have both been through hell emotionally. Despite their age difference, can they be each other's port in the storm?

"Cullen, my office! Now!"

Well, shit. This is not going to end well. Apparently my new partner mentioned my epic fuck up to the Captain.

Walking into his office, I nod and say, "Captain" in greeting. I remain standing, hopeful this will be quick, but I'm not optimistic.

"Shut the door, and have a seat. You wanna tell me what happened this morning?"

"What did Yorkie say?"

"He said you pulled your gun on an elderly couple."

"That's not exactly—"

"Cullen, did you or did you not pull your service weapon on an elderly couple this morning?"

"Well, yes, but—"

"No buts, kid. This is the second time this month you've freaked out on the job. Christ, Edward. You could have killed somebody."

"I know, sir. I'm working on it. It won't happen again."

"That's what you said the last time, Cullen. I gave you a second chance. I know you're seeing the grief counselor, and that's a good start. Losing a partner is terrible, Edward. You and Emmett grew up together. You lost your best friend and partner in one day, son. You need to take some time to heal. To grieve for your loss. I hate to do this, Edward, but I don't have a choice. I need you to turn in your badge and weapon."

~PS~

The next morning, I'm in bed, trying to sleep off the worst bender in the history of ever, when somebody starts banging on my door. I have no doubt it's Alice, my meddlesome sister. I pray if I ignore her long enough, she'll give up.

A few minutes later, the loud pounding on my door has stopped. The pounding in my head is another story. I pull on some boxers and head to the kitchen. I need coffee and aspirin immediately. As I walk down the hall, I hear the knob on the back door jiggle, like somebody's trying to break in. I dart back to my room for my gun, then remember I don't have one anymore. I grab my baseball bat instead. It'll have to do.

I'm rearing the bat back to swing as I creep into the kitchen, and there stands Alice, looking proud as a peacock.

"What the fuck, Alice? I could have killed you!"

"Well, your phone was off, and you wouldn't answer the door. Desperate times and all. Get dressed. We're meeting Mom for lunch."

"That's it? You break into my house and scare the shit out of me because we have lunch plans? Unbelievable."

"Edward, I love you. You are my baby brother, and you are obviously hurting. Mom and I just want to help you. Please? Please let us help."

"I know. I'm sorry, I just- I can't get away from it, you know? He's everywhere I look. And some days I wake I up, and it's not the first thing I think about. But, then when I do, it's worse. If I had been more careful, if I—"

"Stop it! Right now! It is not your fault, Edward."

And just like that, the dam opens, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I hadn't allowed myself to break down, but hearing Alice tell me it wasn't my fault breaks me. My tiny sister cradles my head in her lap, and I sob for what feels like days.

At some point during the afternoon, my mom arrives with food. I don't have an appetite, but they force me to eat. I take a long shower and feel better than I have in weeks. For the first time since Emmett died, I feel like maybe I'lll be okay.

"Son, I think a change of scenery would be beneficial. I'm not saying you should move away and try to forget, but maybe it would be easier to heal. We certainly don't want you to move away, and I hope it wouldn't be permanent, but what do you think of spending a month or two in Forks? Your grandmother's house would be a perfect place to regroup. Please consider it. We just want you to get better, Edward."

"Well, it's not like I have a job keeping me here," I mumble wryly.

Two days later, all my loose ends in Chicago are tied up, essentials are packed, and I'm headed west. I take my time driving, never going more than eight hours a day. Six days after leaving Chicago, I pull into Forks, Washington, my new home for the foreseeable future.

I haven't been to my grandparents' house in over fifteen years, but Forks is easy to navigate, and I find the house with no problems. It's much smaller than I remember but in excellent condition considering it was empty most of the time. She tried renting it out for a while, but it was too much trouble from so far away. She and dad discussed selling it a few times, but in the end she couldn't let it go.

It only takes two trips to get my stuff inside, and in no time, I'm unpacked. My first order of business is grocery shopping. After a week on the road, I'm more than ready to eat a few home cooked meals. I'm not great in the kitchen, but I love to grill and can microwave a mean baked potato. Luckily, the grocery store actually sells a decent grill.

Once I have my supplies for the week, there really isn't much else to do. My dad was able to make some calls, and an old buddy from med school recommended a therapist in Port Angeles. I googled Aro Volturi out of curiosity. The guy is creepy-looking as fuck, but he's supposedly the best in the area. My first appointment isn't for two more days, so I have a whole lot of nothing to do until then.

I decide to take my favorite book out onto the porch and read for a while. The summers here are mild compared to Chicago, so it's actually pleasant. Thankfully I'm able to lose myself in Alexandre Dumas, and the rest of the evening passes quickly.

My first appointment with Dr. Volturi goes much as I expect. I'm settling into life in this tiny town. My mom was right. I do feel better here. There aren't constant reminders of Emmett at every turn. I'm sleeping better and eating better. I've even started jogging.

A month after moving to Forks, I'm starting to get restless. I need something to do with my days beyond therapy and reading. The house is rent free, but I still have utilities and living expenses. My savings aren't going to last forever.

I decide to walk down to the Thrift Way and pick up a penny saver, see if anybody in the area is hiring. On my way, I duck into the diner for a slice of pie. The only available seat is at the end of the bar. I make my way over and sit down next to a burly man wearing flannel.

"You Esme Platt's son?"

"Yes, sir. Edward Cullen."

I should have known word would make it's way around town that Esme Platt's son would be living in her home. I briefly wonder what the rumor mill is saying.

"Welcome to town. Charlie Swan."

"Nice to meet you. You're the police chief, right?"

"That's right. I heard about what happened in Chicago. That's a hell of thing to get over. I'm sorry for your loss, son."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate it."

"You planning on staying a while? We don't have a lot of turnover on the force here, but I actually had an officer turn in transfer papers today. His wife wants to move somewhere sunny. He's taking a job in Jacksonville."

A part of me thinks this will be a perfect opportunity. Starting over on a small force in a town with a low crime rate without all the pressure of the big city. I can ease back into it. Another part of me thinks it's too soon. I don't know if I'm ready.

"No pressure. Think about it. Call me at the station if you decide."

Before I can thank him for the offer, Chief Swan is walking out the door.

I bring it up with Dr. Volturi at my appointment the next day. He thinks I'm ready. I have made great strides since moving to Forks. The nightmares have stopped, and I'm sleeping through the night. I feel good, like my old self again.

On my way home from therapy, I decide to stop by the police station. Chief Swan said to call, but I'm not much for the phone, and something tells me he isn't either. I make my way inside and ask the officer at the front desk if he's available.

Before the officer has time to let him know I'm here, the chief comes out of his office and motions for me to come back. Once inside his office, I realize he has a view of the parking lot, so he knew I was there.

"Edward, have a seat. I'm guessing since you're here that you've decided to take me up on my offer?"

"Yes, sir. I want to be upfront with you. You said you heard what happened in Chicago, but there's more to it than just losing my partner."

"You think I can't make calls and find out what I need to know? Listen kid. You went through something horrible, and it messed with your head. But, Edward, you're still a good cop. I wouldn't have made the offer if I thought you were a danger to the public or yourself."

"Thank you, sir. I appreciate that."

"Alright, be here Monday afternoon at two. I need somebody on second shift. Write down your uniform size, and we'll get it taken care of."

"Thanks again, Chief. I'll see you Monday."

Walking out of the tiny police department, I really feel like things are turning around. Forks is turning out to be a better fit than I had imagined.

~PS~

The weekend seems to crawl by. Saturday night, I consider going out to the one bar in town, but that was never really my scene. I'm going stir crazy, though, so I decide to walk down to the diner.

The diner is pretty quiet for a Saturday night, most couples opting to drive into Port Angeles for nicer dining choices. I'm seated at a booth near the front door when a brunette at the counter catches my eye.

I can only see her profile, but something about just that small glimpse draws me in. I feel this connection, this magnetic pull to her. She never turns so I can see her face or make eye contact, but I turn in my booth, silently willing her to look in my direction. Of course if she did look in my direction, I have no idea what I would say.

I can just imagine it now. "Hi, miss. You have a lovely profile, and I feel a strong connection to you." And then she runs screaming for help.

Well, I never said I was suave, but apparently I'm creepy because I'm still staring at the poor girl.

I manage to shake myself out of my trance and focus on eating the burger the waitress just delivered. The overly made up and obviously flirting waitress. Jessica was written on her nametag. Jessica looked to be jailbait in disguise.

I'm almost finished with my meal when my girl starts packing up to leave. I want to go after her or try to get her attention, but what the hell am I going to say? Before I can decide what to do, she's out the door. The way the diner is positioned means she has to pass my window to get to her car. I'm staring out the window, willing her to look up when she passes. She still doesn't make eye contact, but I'm almost positive her lips are turned up in a smile.

I'm grinning from ear to ear when Jessica brings me the check along with her number and heavy innuendo. Yeah, not happening. I'm twenty-eight years old, and all the make-up in the world isn't hiding the fact that this girl is in high school. I haven't had sex with anybody other than my left hand for a while, but I'm not that desperate yet.

I leave enough cash to cover my food and a tip alongside her number on the table.

Walking home, my thoughts are filled with the mystery brunette. I have no idea who she is, but something tells me I haven't seen the last of her.

By Monday morning, my nerves have hit full force. I'm anxious to get to work and get started. I'm ready to be a cop again. I don't think I ever really stopped. Finally it's 1:30pm, and I make the short drive to the police station. I know I'll get there a good twenty minutes before my shift starts, but I can't sit around staring at the clock another minute.

I'm nearly floored when I walk in the door and the first face I see is my girl. She smiles warmly at me as I approach the desk. Her hair is braided, so she doesn't have anything to hide behind today.

"Can I help—"

"I'm Edward Cul—"

We both start to speak at the same time and both say "Go ahead" to the other simultaneously. This causes my girl to giggle, and a beautiful blush colors her cheeks.

"I'm Edward Cullen, the new officer the Chief hired. Is he in?"

"Of course. He told me you were starting today. Your uniforms are hanging in your locker, through the door straight in the back. I'll let him know you're here."

"Thanks…"

"Sorry - Bella. Bella Swan."

Before my brain can connect the dots of Bella having the same last name as the chief of police and my new boss, said chief approaches us at the desk. He gives me a hearty clap on the back as says, "Edward, I see you've met Bella, my daughter. She's helping out around here for the summer."

"Nice to meet you, Bella. Where are you going to school?" Up close, she's younger than I originally thought, but she carries herself with such maturity. She has to be early twenties, right? Right?

"Oh, um, I'm going to Peninsula College. I'll be a freshman this year."

Say what?

The first girl I'm attracted to in ages just graduated high school and is my boss's daughter.

Fuck. My. Life.

I have no idea what to say to that. I just stand there gawking dumbly until the chief suggests I get changed so we can get started with my training.

When I make it to the locker room, I have to take a minute and try to calm myself. I have thought about nothing but this girl, Bella, for the past thirty-six hours. Two days ago, I scoffed at the idea of dating someone so young, but that waitress was just looking for a hook-up.

What I'm feeling towards Bella is so much more than that. Something about her calms me. I just want to be around her, get to know her.

Ugh, I just have to get over it. It cannot happen. She's a teenager, for god's sake.

I get my new uniform on and head back out there. Time to get my head out of my ass. I've been given a second chance, and I will not fuck it up.

~PS~

The chief has decided to personally train me, but I think he really wants to keep an eye on me, for a while at least. Honestly, I don't blame him. He's taking a chance on me, and I'm grateful.

We get in the cruiser, and he's driving us around, pointing out places to keep an eye on - spots where young lovers go to park and where the few addicts in town meet their dealer. Chief Swan does not have the same calming effect as his daughter.

"Nervous, Cullen? You're awfully quiet."

"Just taking it all in, sir."

"I noticed the way you were looking at Bella."

Wow, he's going straight for the jugular.

"Oh, I was— I mean—"

"I'm her father. I know she's a beautiful girl. But I'm also a cop, and I notice the way men look at her."

"Sir, I'm sorry. I swear I wasn't—"

"Shut it, Cullen. She might seem mature, but she is only seventeen. You understand what I'm saying, kid?"

"Absolutely, sir."

"Alright then. I'm going to drop you off at the station and head home. Crowley is going to train you."

And just like that, I've been dismissed with a very clear message. Bella Swan is off limits.

The rest of my shift is uneventful and much more relaxed than the job in Chicago. Tyler Crowley isn't a bad guy. He asks a ton of personal questions, though, and each time, I politely deflect to a different subject.

As each day passes, I get more comfortable on the job. I'm just so thankful to be back in a routine and to feel like I'm doing something useful with my time. Bella is always around, but I try to ignore her.

Three weeks after meeting Bella, we're alone for the first time. I'm eating my lunch in the break room when she walks in, a scowl immediately marring her pretty features. I'm about to ask her if everything is okay when she stops in her tracks and starts apologizing.

"Um, Edward, hey. I didn't realize you were in here. I can go eat my lunch at my desk."

"What? What are you talking about? There's plenty of room in here for both of us. You don't have to go."

"Are you sure? I mean, it's obvious you don't like me very much. You seemed so nice at first, and now you don't even speak to me."

Well, shit. I've been trying so hard to keep my distance from Bella and maintain an appropriate working relationship, but I didn't consider my seeming indifferent would come off as rude. I certainly don't want her to think I don't like her.

"Look, Bella, please don't think that. You have no idea how far that is from the truth." I push my hands through my hair, worried I've said too much.

"Shit, Charlie told you to stay away from me, didn't he?" Bella is direct and to the point, just like her father.

"Bella, I—"

"He did!"

"Bella, I have to respect his wishes. He is my boss, and I am ten years older than you."

A heartbreaking look crosses her face, and just as quickly a look of fierce determination takes it's place. "So, what? We can't even be friends? What did he say exactly?"

"Not much, honestly. That you were mature for your age. That you were seventeen."

Then Bella whispers something so low I almost don't hear her. "Almost eighteen."

Before I realize I'm speaking, the word is out. "When?"

"In September - the thirteenth."

Three weeks. In three weeks, Bella will be a legal adult. I won't have to feel guilty every time I steal a glance at her from across the room or wonder if her lips are as soft as they look.

But in three weeks, my boss will still be her father.

"I saw you that night in the diner."

"You did?"

"Yes. I was hoping you would talk to me."

"I wanted to. So much." I run my hands through my hair again nervously, a lifelong nervous habit, "Bella, this," I say, motioning between the two of us with my hands, "I don't know what this is. I feel… It's so hard to explain."

"I feel it, too."

The entire time we're talking, we gradually move closer and closer to each other. The pull is so strong. It draws me closer to her. It's like we're in a bubble, and nothing exists but us.

We're standing much closer than people who are just friends stand when Crowley walks into the break room. "Hey, either one of you have some ketchup?"

I nonchalantly step back from Bella and try to act cool. "I have a few packets in my desk, man. Help yourself."

"Thanks, bro."

Thankfully Tyler isn't very observant and doesn't notice the tension in the room.

Bella and I are both fully aware of the bullet we've just dodged. We need to finish this conversation, but now isn't a good time, and this definitely isn't a good place.

I'm about to suggest we meet at the diner later to talk when Crowley comes back into the break room. "Log truck versus a Honda, man. We gotta go."

Bella nods in understanding. "You guys be safe."

~PS~

I'm soaked to the bone, starving and dead on my feet. All I want to do is eat and crash. The wreck site was horrible, one of the worst I've ever seen. By some miracle, there were no fatalities.

I'm almost to the door when I see her. She's curled up with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo on the porch swing. I can't help myself. I just stand there, watching her sleep.

After a few minutes, she stirs. Her eyes open, and she has the cutest look on her face. She's obviously disoriented and trying to figure out where she is. When she sees me, she lets out a little gasp and then gives me the most beautiful smile I've ever seen.

"Have you been waiting here long?"

"Um, I'm not sure. What time is it?"

"After eleven. Come inside. If Charlie catches you here, he'll have my balls."

"Do you want me to leave?"

"No, I'm glad you're here."

She gives me another heart-stopping smile and follows me inside.

"Make yourself at home. I'm going to change into some dry clothes. I'll be right back."

I leave Bella in the living room, taking the stairs two at a time. I know I should've taken her home the minute she woke up, but I couldn't. I didn't want to. The logical side of my brain knows she shouldn't be here, but the other side of my brain and my rapidly beating heart are thrilled.

I shower and change as quickly as I can and get back to Bella. I'm half expecting her to be gone when I come back downstairs, but she isn't. She's standing at the stove, scrambling eggs.

"I figured you were hungry."

"Starving, actually. This is great, thanks."

I sit down at the table while she plates the eggs and toast. Something about the simple gesture makes my heart soar. Bella is a caregiver, it's obvious in everything she does. She's always fussing over Charlie about eating better and drinking less coffee.

Bella sets my plate and a fork down in front of me along with a glass of juice. She sits down across from me and says, "Eat before it gets cold."

"You aren't hungry?"

She doesn't answer my question but asks one of her own.

"Do you know about my mother, Edward?"

The question throws me a little. It's the last thing I'm expecting her to ask.

"I know she died when you were young. Charlie said it changed you, made you grow up fast."

"Yeah, you could say that. She committed suicide when I was ten. She battled depression her entire life. Looking back, I think she would have been diagnosed as bipolar or manic, but she wouldn't accept that anything was wrong. She said the weather here gave her the blues or that Charlie tried to stifle her creativity. When she was happy, she soared. You couldn't bring her down, but those times were few and far between."

I wanted to comfort her in some way, but I knew clichéd platitudes weren't what she was looking for, so I remained quiet.

"She would leave, sometimes for days at a time. Sometimes she took me with her, sometimes she didn't. I knew there was something wrong. Even as a child, I knew my mom was different from everyone else's mother.

"When I was ten, it got really bad. She and Charlie fought constantly, mostly about money. He would give her money for food, and she'd take me to Seattle for a shopping trip. She was always pulling me out of school, and I was getting behind.

"I would try to talk her out of it, tell her I wanted to go to school. She would tell me to hush; that was Charlie talking.

"I can't remember the exact date, but I remember it was February because there were Valentine's decorations up at school. She checked me out right after lunch but wouldn't tell me where we were going. We just started driving. We had been in the car for hours, and I was scared. I was fidgeting with my hands, and I kept telling her we should call Dad, that he would be worried.

"I must have fallen asleep finally. When I woke up, we were in a dump motel somewhere in California. She was sleeping, so I snuck out of the room and went down to the office. The desk clerk let me use the phone to call my dad. He was so relieved I was safe, but I knew this was it -the final straw.

"He caught the first flight out, and the hotel manager kept me hidden in the office. He didn't know my mom had a kid with her when she checked in the night before. He just assumed she was high and needed a place to sleep it off.

"She didn't even notice I was missing, Edward. Eight hours passed before Charlie got there. He told her I was coming with him and that the only way she would see me again was if she agreed to get help. She cried and pleaded with him to forgive her. She promised she would get help, that she wanted to get better.

"She agreed to go to a psychiatric facility in Tacoma, but they couldn't admit her until the next day. After Charlie and I fell asleep that night, she swallowed an entire bottle of pills.

"I'm not telling you this because I want sympathy. I've made my peace with it and forgiven her. She was sick, and I know that. I just want you to understand - I haven't been a kid in a long time.

"Yes, I'm only seventeen, but I'm not the typical teenage girl. I learned at an early age that life's problems were much more serious than not having name brand clothes or a date to homecoming.

"Edward, I don't click with people my age. I never have."

After everything Bella has shared with me, I'm completely speechless. All I can do is wrap my arms around her and hold her. I think I need it more than she does. This girl has been through hell and somehow survived. She amazes me.

I'm undeniably attracted to her physically, but her mental strength and character are astounding. She wraps her arms around me and starts whispering in my ear that it's okay. At first I don't realize why she's soothing me, but then I feel the wetness on my cheeks. Sometime during Bella's story, I had started to cry.

We hold each other for a while longer. She feels so good, so right in my arms, and I never want to let her go. At some point, she started running her fingers through my hair and lightly scratching my scalp. I might have purred.

Eventually we release each other, and I stand. It's late, or early, depending on how you look at it, and I need to get her home. There's no way I'm letting her walk through the woods in the middle of the night, though. Prying eyes be damned.

"Come on, Bella. I need to get you home."

"Yeah, you're probably right."

Walking her through the woods would be quicker, because the road to access her street was off the highway and we had to drive across town. I need to remember to ask her how she knows about this short cut. Another time, though. We're both emotionally spent.

I pull into the driveway of a two story bungalow that's very similar to the one I'm living in. I kill the engine, exit the car and walk around to the passenger side. We're both silent as I walk her to the door. She fishes her keys out her pocket and unlocks the door.

I think telling her good night will be awkward, but when I lean down and kiss her forehead, it feels as natural as breathing.

~PS~

The weeks leading up to Bella's eighteenth birthday are torture. I'm determined I'll abide by the law, if not her father. Bella doesn't sneak over again, and at the station we're limited to stolen glances and brief interactions related to work.

I want to get her something meaningful for her birthday. Bella loves to write, and there's an antique store in Port Angeles that has a nice selection of books and journals. I decide to look there first for her gift. Shortly after entering the store, I find an antique leather bound journal that'll be perfect for her. The proprietor of the shop even offers to engrave her initials in the leather.

I continue to look around while he gets to work. I notice a case with some different jewelry, mostly costume stuff, but a locket catches my eye. When I read the inscription inside, I know I have to buy it for Bella. I might not give it to her for her birthday - I don't want to freak her out - but soon.

With Bella's gifts in hand, I make my way back to my car and head towards home. School started back earlier this week, so Bella will only be working a few hours each afternoon. Her birthday can't come soon enough.

I have no idea how we're going to make this work. I just know we have to try. I really want to sit down with Charlie, man to man, and tell him how I feel about Bella. I'm crazy about her. She's in every thought I have. Even to me that sounds crazy, and I'm living it. I'm not sure what Bella and I will decide, but I'm not going to treat her like some dirty little secret.

I know people will judge us harshly because of the age difference. Forks is such a small town, and everyone knows Bella because of Charlie. I honestly don't give a shit what people think about me, but I won't tolerate them mistreating Bella.

Finally the weekend of Bella's birthday gets here. Charlie is taking her to dinner at The Lodge, and then he's working the night shift. I'm planning to pick Bella up after the chief leaves. I cleaned the house from top to bottom and even washed the sheets on my bed. I'm not sure if she's planning to stay the night, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hopeful.

Over the past week, Bella has starting texting me here and there throughout the day. Just little messages to tell me she's thinking of me, or something stupid one of her classmates or teachers did.

I've been keeping in touch with my family and friends in Chicago via Skype, so I suggested we chat on there as well. She really opens up online, and we chat for hours every night. When she sends the silly emoticons of hearts, I swear I get butterflies in my stomach. Sometimes it's hard to tell which of us is the eighteen-year-old girl and which is the 28-year-old man.

During one of our chats, Bella just blurts out, "I've never had sex before."

I honestly expected as much. She told me her dating history was non-existent, but she kind of throws me, just tossing it out there like that. I'm not sure how to respond, but I know I need to say something. I'm trying to word my reply in my head before I say the wrong thing. The last thing I want is to make her uncomfortable or hurt her feelings.

While I'm thinking of my reply, I can see she's typing something.

Bswan95: Sorry, there's really no good way to say it, but I thought you should know.

EMCullen: Bella, we don't have to rush into anything physical. I promise we won't do anything before you're ready. I just want to spend time with you.

Bswan95: Oh, I'm ready. I'm just making sure you are

Just like that, Bella diffuses the awkward conversation. She really is amazing.

My phone chimes with a text message, shaking me from my daydreaming. It's almost nine, so I know it's Bella telling me Charlie has left for work. When I open the message, I have to laugh. Bella sent me a selfie and captioned it with Come and get it, tiger.

Fifteen minutes later, I pull into her driveway. Before I get the car in park, Bella's running down the front steps. My heart swells at the sight of her. She's wearing a simple white sweater and jeans, but I swear she's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen.

I meet her at the front of the car and hold her to me tightly. We've had no physical contact since the night three weeks ago, and I'm desperate to touch her. Her body fits against mine perfectly. She's heaven.

Reluctantly, we pull apart and get into the car for the short drive back to my house. My worries that things will be awkward quickly subside. Just like it has since the first night I saw her, her presence calms me.

I'm anxious to give her the journal. I'm pretty proud of the job I did wrapping it. I wrapped the locket as well, but I'm still on the fence about giving it to her. I want her to have it now. I just didn't want to overwhelm her with my intense feelings. I'm pretty sure she feels the same, but I want to be certain.

As soon as we get inside, I pull her to the couch and tell her to wait there. I have her gifts stashed in the hall closet, so I rush to get them. I make a split-second decision to give her the locket now. I want her to know how I feel. She starts fussing as soon as I walked back in with her gifts.

"Edward, you didn't have to get me anything."

"Yes, I did, pretty girl. Turning eighteen is a big deal. Plus I wanted to." I hand her the box with the journal. "Open this one first."

She takes her time, carefully pulling the paper apart, lifting the box lid, and pushing the tissue paper aside. When she sees the journal, she just stares silently, rubbing her thumb over the engraving.

"Baby, if you don't like it, I can get you something else. We could go together and pick out something if you want."

She continues to stare silently at the journal, and a single tear trickles down her cheek. Making her cry on her birthday was not what I had planned. I'm seriously fucking things up already. Finally, she puts me out of my misery and says, "Edward, it's beautiful. No one has ever given me such a thoughtful gift before. I love it. Thank you."

I exhale a gush of air and reach for the box containing the locket. Before I get there, she throws her arms around my neck and hugs me so tight. I pull her into my lap and start stroking her back. Bella's mouth is right by my ear, her warm breath tickling my neck and driving me crazy in the best way imaginable.

"Can I ask you for one thing?"

"Anything, Bella. Anything you want, it's yours."

She raises her head and looks into my eyes. I'm dying from the anticipation when she breathes, "Will you kiss me?"

My mouth is on hers immediately. I kiss her softly at first, lightly nipping her plump lips. When she runs her tongue over my bottom lip, I'm done for. Soft and slow turns into commanding and possessive.

When we break apart for air, she turns on my lap so she's straddling me. She's making little moaning noises and running her hands through my hair. I haven't made out like this with a girl since I was, well, a teenager, and I'm getting dangerously close to coming in my pants.

"You're driving me crazy, baby."

"That's good, though, right? I'm doing it right?"

The look on her face is adorable, and in that moment, she seems her age. I cradle her face in my hands. "Yes, beautiful girl. You are most definitely doing it right, which is why we need to slow down. I don't want to rush this, Bella. I'm so crazy about you, and I don't want you to regret this. To regret me. I don't think I could handle it."

"I won't. It doesn't have to be tonight, but I know I want it to be you."

"Not until you're sure, okay? Promise me, Bella. I'll wait. I would wait forever for you."

She nods her agreement, and I move us on the couch so we're lying face to face. I smoothe her hair back and kiss her forehead and she lets out the sweetest sigh. This tiny girl in my arms owns me completely. I meant it when I told her I would wait forever.

For the next few hours, we just hold each other, sharing sweet kisses and gentle touches. I don't want to let her go, but I can tell she's getting sleepy.

"Are you ready for me to take you home?"

"Not yet. A little longer, please?"

"Whatever you want, Bella. I'm going to set an alarm in case we fall asleep, okay?"

She breathes out a whispered, "okay", but I think she's already sleeping.

I doze lightly for the rest of night with Bella burrowed into my chest. Too soon, my phone alerts me that it's six a.m. Charlie will be leaving the station in an hour, and I need to get Bella home.

"Wake up, baby. I've got to get you home."

She grumbles something incoherent and keeps sleeping. I try shaking her gently and just get more grumbles. I can't help but smile. It seems my girl is a heavy sleeper and not a morning person.

I move us to an upright position, and she finally opens her eyes. I expect her to be disoriented, but when she sees me, she gives me a shy smile.

"Good morning."

I softly kiss her lips. Pulling away, I whisper, "Good morning, sweet girl. Do you want your other present before we have to go?"

"Oh, yeah. I almost forgot about that one. You were distracting me." She gives me a wink.

This girl is killing me, and I don't even think she realizes it. I suddenly feel nervous as I hand her the package. She tears into this one with more urgency than she had the journal. When she lifts the lid from the box and sees the locket nestled inside, her face lights up.

It's not anything fancy. Just a simple white gold locket made to hold a tiny picture, but the inscription inside is perfect. She deftly frees the chain and brings it out for closer inspection.

"Um, I didn't put a picture inside, but there's uh, there's an inscription. It was already there, but I thought it fit, so…"

As I ramble on nervously she opens the locket and reads the words inside. In seconds, she has thrown her arms around me. I'm extremely pleased with her reaction, and the words that tumble from her lips would bring me to my knees if I was standing.

"I love you, Edward."

My heart soars. She feels the same as I do.

"I love you too, Bella. So much."

The alarm on my phone chimes again, and we both know our time is running out unless she's ready to come clean to her father. I told her last night the decision was hers. I'm not ashamed of how I feel about her, but I'll let her decide when to tell Charlie.

"I guess I need to get home. We'll tell him soon, Edward. I promise. I just don't want to upset him."

I nod my understanding, and we walk together to my car.

~PS~

When I make it back home, the exhaustion hits me. I drag myself upstairs, strip down to my boxers and climb into bed. I fall asleep in minutes, replaying last night with Bella in my mind. Her sweet kisses and sounds. Mostly her sweet words.

I must be sleeping harder than normal because the dream I'm currently having feels incredibly real. The soft and warm girl in my arms is so lifelike. Then she lets out a giggle and tickles my ribs. Definitely not dreaming. Bella's in bed with me.

"I'm not complaining, but how did you get in here?"

"I might have forgotten to mention I have a key. I come over once a month to check on things and clean for your mom."

"That's how you knew the shortcut?"

"Yeah. You don't mind I just let myself in, do you?"

"Of course not, baby. You could have come inside the night you waited for me."

"I did. I came in and got a book to read while I waited. But I promise I didn't snoop."

I kiss her sweet lips. "Snoop away. I don't have anything to hide."

"Good to know. Charlie's fishing. We can talk to him tonight if you're ready. I can't lie to him, Edward. I don't want to."

I let out a sigh of relief. I don't like hiding and lying either, especially to the man that trusts me enough to give me a second chance. I just pray he won't shoot me on sight.

"I think that's a good idea. I'm in love with you, Bella. And I know he loves you more than anything. He's a reasonable man. It's better for us to tell him before he finds out anyway."

Bella hums her agreement and scoots closer.

I prop my head up on some pillows and get a good look at Bella for the first time since waking up. She's definitely trying to kill me. All she's wearing is a pink camisole and matching lace panties.

Before I can comment, she's straddling me with her hands on my chest. She has a very determined but uncertain look on her face as she starts running her hands over my bare chest and arms. Her lacy tank top leaves little to the imagination and her barely-covered breasts, combined with her hands on me, is making my cock painfully hard.

She grinds her center against my length, and I groan.

Her lips turned up in a satisfied smile. She continues moving her hips for a few minutes before she slides herself farther down my legs. Her eyes zero in on my tented boxers, and she moves her hands down to the waistband.

"I want to touch you."

I almost come on the spot but manage to control myself. All I can do is nod eagerly and raise my ass so she can pull my underwear down. Her touch is so soft and tentative at first. She wraps both hands around me, one at the base and one covering the head. When she starts sliding them up and down, spreading the moisture from my tip, my hips buck, and I moan.

"Does that feel good?"

"God, yes, baby. Just like that. A little harder."

Her grip around the base of my cock tightens, and she leans down to swipe her warm tongue over the head. So slowly I think I'll die, she takes me into her mouth. It's almost impossible to stay still, but I resist the urge to thrust. Her hand continues stroking up and down my length while her tongue swirls and her lips suck.

I'm close, and I put my hand on her jaw, cupping her chin to pull her off me. She keeps up her steady rhythm, though and shakes my hand off.

"Baby, I'm so close."

She just looks into my eyes and nods. I lose it, thrusting up hard and releasing into her mouth. When I'm able to open my eyes and speak, Bella is looking at me with a smug smile. She crawls her way back up my body and nuzzles into my chest. I lift her chin and kiss her hard. I don't mind tasting myself on her mouth. I want to touch and taste her everywhere, but I want her to lead.

Bella pulls her camisole over her head and tosses it to the side. Then she rolls us over so I'm on top of her. I press our bare chests together and say, "Please, Bella. Tell me what you want me to do."

"Anything, everything. Just touch me, please."

I kiss and lick her neck and work my way down her chest, sucking and softly biting her nipples until she's moaning and writhing. Then I lick and kiss all the way to her navel and slip my hand into her panties.

"So wet for me, baby. Can I taste you, Bella?"

She just moans and nods, raising her hips and pushing her panties down. I sit back on my haunches to pull them the rest of the way off. She's breathtaking, bared before me this way. I can see the love and trust in her eyes.

I open her legs wider, then lean down and swipe my tongue along her slit, groaning at her taste. Salty and sweet and Bella. I lap at her clit and work a finger inside her, quickly adding a second. Alternating from slow to fast licks and curling my fingers, it doesn't take long for her to reach orgasm. She whimpers and shakes when her walls clamp down on my fingers. With my free hand, I stroke her stomach and breasts as she comes down. Her hands fist in my hair as she tugs me back up to kiss her. We taste amazing together.

"Edward, I'm ready. Please. I want this. I want this with you."

"Are you sure, Bella? I promise there's no rush."

"I'm sure. Please."

I reach over to the bedside table for the condoms I purchased earlier this weekend. When Bella realizes what I'm going for, she stops me.

"I'm on the pill, and I trust you. I just want to feel you."

"Are you sure? I'm clean, but I want you to be comfortable."

"I love you. I'm sure."

"I love you, Bella. I'll go slow so I don't hurt you. I promise I'll make it good."

I position myself at her entrance, and she nods that she's ready. Slowly, so slowly, I push inside her. I can tell the exact moment I penetrate her barrier. She tenses and squeezes my shoulders but tells me to keep going. I'm fully inside her and know there's no way this is going to last long.

I feel her body adjust, and she lets out a sigh, not one of pain this time. Her hips thrust upward to meet mine, and I begin to ease back out, setting a slow rhythm. I whisper in her ear how good she feels, how precious she is to me, how much I love her.

I don't expect her to come the first time, so I'm thrilled when I feel her muscles begin to spasm around me, pulling me over the edge to my own release. I gently slide out of her warm body and kiss her swollen lips.

"I'll be right back, love. I'm going to get a warm towel towel to clean you up."

She's sound asleep when I return from the bathroom.

~PS~

A huge clap of thunder wakes us shortly after we drift off. It's only four-thirty in the afternoon, but it's completely dark outside, and the rain is coming down harder than I've seen since moving to Forks.

We clean up quickly and get dressed. It's time to talk to Charlie.

The drive back to Bella's house is tedious. The roads are starting to flood, the rain coming down faster than the drains can handle. I'm surprised I haven't been called in to work.

When we pull into the drive, Bella immediately starts panicking. "He's not back from the lake yet, Edward. He's still out in this."

"Maybe he went to the station to check in first?"

"He would have taken the cruiser, not my truck. Something is wrong."

I know I have to stay calm for her, try to keep her from panicking.

"Let's make sure he isn't inside or at the station first, okay baby? Do you know where he was fishing today?"

"Yes, he always goes to the same spot. Okay, you're right. I'll run in to make sure he didn't just the leave the truck somewhere. It does break down all the time."

She pulls her hood up and runs for the cover of the porch. In a few short minutes, she's back in the car and clearly starting to panic.

"He's not here, Edward, and he isn't at the station either. They haven't heard from him since his shift ended this morning."

"Okay, baby. It'll be okay. Tell me which way to go."

Bella quickly spouts out directions, and I drive as carefully as possible to the chief's fishing hole. Bella is literally shaking in the seat and practically chewing her bottom lip off. I pray the entire way there for her father's safety. This girl has been through enough in her short lifetime. Surely her father won't be taken from her, too.

My visibility is minimal, and I almost pass the spot when I see a flash of red I recognize as Bella's old pick-up truck. I tell her to stay in the car, but she won't listen and is right on my heels as I make my way down to the lake.

Up the shore a ways, I can see something orange caught on a low branch. Bella sees it right after I do, and I immediately spring into action.

"Bella, go back to the car and call for backup. Tell them to send EMS, and make sure they have plenty of blankets! Go, baby - go call, now!"

I run as fast as I can along the edge of the lake until I finally make it to Charlie. At first, I think he's unconscious, but when I grab the back of his jacket to try to pull him out of the water, he comes to and starts spluttering and coughing. I've never seen a water rescue, but I've heard people who're in shock will fight you in the water.

I need him to calm down and realize it's just me trying to help him.

"Chief! Charlie! Look at me. It's Edward. Please don't fight me. Let me help you!"

Recognition finally dawns, and he calms down enough that I'm able to pull him up to the shore. There's no way I can get him back to the car without help, and I'm not sure if I should move him. I have no choice but to wait for help.

I hear the sirens before I see EMS, two officers and Bella running toward us. I get out of the way and let them get to work. Bella throws herself into my arms, and I hold her tight as the tears wrack her body.

The paramedics have Charlie loaded onto a stretcher. We all help hold it steady and get him to the ambulance. Bella rides to the hospital with her father, and I follow them in my car.

The emergency room has been notified the chief of police is being brought in. He's in shock and possibly has hypothermia. A team is waiting in the ambulance bay when we pull up.

Charlie is immediately rushed to the back, and Bella collapses into a chair.

"He has to be okay, Edward. He has to."

She's barely speaking above a whisper and looks so lost and afraid. I try to comfort her the best I can. We're both soaked and freezing. I offer to go home, get us some dry clothes and come right back, but Bella won't have it. She doesn't want me leaving her side. I'm fine with that, whatever she needs. Thankfully a nurse brings us some dry scrubs to change into and some hot, if stale, coffee.

We change and get comfortable in the waiting room, not having any idea how long it will take.

About an hour after we arrive, an ER doctor comes out to talk to Bella. Charlie has a few broken ribs and mild hypothermia, but he's going to make a full recovery and is being moved to a patient room upstairs, so Bella can see him soon.

She thanks the doctor and then kisses me for all I'm worth.

"He's going to be okay, Edward! You saved him. I don't know how to thank you."

I give her a cheeky grin, and she giggles.

"Do you think we should wait to tell him? I mean, if he's in a hospital bed, he can't kill me, right?"

"Edward, you saved his life. If he is anything less than accepting of our relationship, I will kick his ass. If you hadn't been with me today and weren't so brave, telling him would be a moot point, because he probably would have died."

"Well, thankfully he didn't."

A few minutes later, the nurse calls for Bella, telling her Charlie is in his room and she can go up to see him. She takes my hand, and we make our way to the elevators, then down the hall to Charlie's room. I tell her I'll wait outside, that she needs a few minutes alone with her dad.

She nods and slips inside the room. She's only in there a minute before she walks back into the hallway with a bewildered look on her face.

I'm at her side immediately. "What is it, baby? Is everything alright?"

"Yeah. He wants to talk to you 'man to man'. He knows, Edward. I didn't say anything, but he just knew."

I nod once, kiss her temple, and make my way into the chief's room.

"Edward, come in and sit down. Now, I have a lot I need to say, and I've been through hell today, so let me say it so I can get some sleep.

"I told you when I first caught you mooning over my Bella that I was observant, and I noticed everything. Did you two really think you were hiding anything from me? Smiling and winking at each other across the police station, Bella staying glued to that laptop all night.

"I've watched you both closely, and you surprised me, kid. Wouldn't let her come back over until her birthday. Bella has never clicked with her peers. I don't like it, but I always knew she'd end up with somebody older. At least you abide by the law. More than I can say for some of these assholes around here.

"What's the locket say? Yeah, I saw that, too."

I clear my throat to speak. "It says 'Take care of my heart. I've left it with you.'"

"Do you love her?"

"I do. I love her more than anything."

"Yeah, me too, kid. And if you hurt her, I will not hesitate to cut your balls off."

"Sir, does this mean we have your blessing?"

"Don't push it, Cullen. Now get out of here so I can rest."

"Thank you, sir. I promise I'll take good care of her."

I'm almost to the door when Charlie calls out, "Edward, one more thing."

I'm expecting another warning or threat.

"Thank you, son. I don't think I would be alive right now if it weren't for you."

"You're welcome, Chief."

Bella is pacing the hall when I emerge from the hospital room.

"What did he say? Did he freak out? Edward, if he threatened you…"

"Shh, Bella. It's okay. He's not thrilled about it, but he admitted he wouldn't be thrilled about you dating anybody. You're his little girl. I get it."

"So he wasn't rude to you?"

"He thanked me for saving him."

"That's not what I asked, Edward."

"Come on. We'll talk about it later. He said he wants to rest."

We walk out of the hospital hand-in-hand. It's early in the morning, the sun just starting to rise.

The storm has passed.