With a weary sigh I pulled into the driveway leading to my house. Lights beckoned to me; their warm glow a welcome sight after the long drive. Carlisle's car was parked in front of the house, and I knew he and Esme would be there waiting for me. I smiled sadly. Unlike my family, they would be happy to see me. I opened the car door, relieved to be home.

*()*

"Edward, I'm so sorry. I had hoped things would go better for you." Esme's voice was hurt-filled. Hurt, I knew she was feeling for me.

I leaned my head back on the couch, enjoying the feeling of the simple comfort being surrounded by my own things brought me. "Pretty much a disaster from the get-go. Maybe my car breaking down was a sign. I guess I should have listened better to what the gods were saying." I smiled, trying to lighten the atmosphere, while my mind went over what I had just shared with Carlisle and Esme.

My arrival had been greeted with a less than enthusiastic response from my parents. Apparently, unscheduled visits were not welcome, especially when dinner plans had already been made. I was virtually ignored by my brother, and the brief time I spent with my sister was tense. I was barely even allowed to hold my niece. My father kept shaking his head and muttering about ill thought out decisions, while my mother tsked and looked askance over the fact I hadn't brought a proper suit to dress in for dinner. When I gently reminded them the life I led didn't require me to wear suits; that started yet another round of lectures about what a great disappointment I was. How I was wasting my life. Everything I heard before, but had hoped not to hear this visit.

Dinner had been uncomfortable, as I sat in my borrowed jacket, listening to the talk that swirled around me in a roomful of strangers. I was rarely included in the conversation, so spent the time instead thinking of the vast difference in the dinner with my family and their friends, compared to the one I shared with Bella the night before in her tiny kitchen. That small room had been filled with warmth and laughter. My parents' large, opulent room, lit with candles and the over powering stench of hot house flowers, was as cold and fake as the people in it. There I was nothing but the son who was constantly lacking, but whose presence had to be tolerated. That other night, I had been the center of Bella's small world.

I far preferred that spot.

The gifts, as I thought, were opened and promptly laid aside. Even the baby gifts were not acceptable. Although I expected it, I was stunned at the level of indifference to the items I had chosen for them. Bella, I knew, would be devastated if she saw how they had been received.

The following day had been fraught with tension, and no matter how innocent a conversation started, it became hostile and turned into an argument. Finally, my father and I exchanged heated words over my choices in life and for the first time ever, I stood up to him. I used Bella's words when I informed him it was my life not his. I was happy, enjoyed my work and my quiet life. He made sure I understood exactly how he felt, and what an utter failure I was in his eyes. I had grabbed my things and left, driving straight home without a break. It took everything in me not to pull off the highway as I passed the exit to the town where Bella lived. She hadn't asked me to stay so I didn't think she would want me showing back up the next day. I didn't think I could handle even more rejection.

"Are you okay, Edward?" Esme's voice broke through my musings.

I nodded. "I'm just tired."

"You should have stopped. That is such a long drive."

I shook my head. If I had I would have turned around and gone to find Bella. The urge had been strong. "I wanted to get home."

"We're glad you're back." Carlisle smiled at me. "Esme's got a big dinner planned for you. We'll give you tomorrow to rest up and come over the next day. It'll be our own little Christmas."

"I look forward to it."

Esme leaned forward, her hands resting on her knees. "Are you going to contact her? Bella?"

"Esme," Carlisle chided gently. "Not our business."

"Hush." She turned back to me. "Well?"

I had told them about Bella. About the short time we spent together, and I had shown Esme the wings she gave me. It had been such a relief to be able to tell someone about her. I never brought the subject up at my parents', letting them think I had traveled even later than I actually had. It would have been blasphemy to have said her name there. I could only imagine the biting comments that would have followed, and I didn't want to share that memory with them, only to have it tainted.

I shrugged. "And say what, Esme? Hey—thanks for the interlude. I'll look you up next time? It was, as she said, a stop in my life. Something we both needed at the time."

Esme frowned. "Bullshit."

I gaped at her. "She didn't ask me to stay," I insisted quietly.

"And you didn't ask."

I stared at her, unsure what to say.

Carlisle let out a bark of laughter and stood up. "I think we need to leave. Don't forget dinner. Come over in the afternoon." He pulled Esme off the chair. "We're going now. Get some sleep, Edward."

Esme paused beside my chair. "When you're ready to talk, I'm here."

Carlisle tugged on her arm. "Leave him alone, for Heaven's sake."

She shook her head. "Stubborn fool."

I watched them walk out, not moving from the couch.

Was she talking about Carlisle or me?

*()*
My dreams were filled with ice-blue eyes that belied the color and were instead, warm and soft. They looked at me with so much emotion, yet every time I reached for the person attached to them, they disappeared. I woke up in the late afternoon, unrefreshed and moody. I walked around the house, unable to settle.

The quiet and solitude I always enjoyed now seemed to be mocking me. The silence echoed in the house. Again and again my eyes strayed to the wings on the mantle. Over and over memories played in my head.

Bella.

Her laugh.

The way she cared for me.

The sadness and fear she tried so hard to hide.

How it felt being with her.

The incredible sensation of making love to her.

How she made me feel.

Not weak and lost. Unwanted.

Strong. Needed.

Loved?

I shook my head. I was being ridiculous. People didn't fall in love in a day.

Yet, I couldn't deny the longing I felt for her.

I glanced at my phone and picked it up. I had texted her to let her know I made it to my parents, but she hadn't replied. I hadn't expected her to. But I wanted her to know I was home in case she worried.

B- Am back home. Things went as expected. Just thought you'd want to know -E

A few moments later my phone beeped.

E- I am so sorry. You deserve so much better. You tried. I am proud of you- now make your own life and be happy for you. –B

Be happy.

I thought I was happy.

Now I wasn't sure.

I wasn't sure about anything anymore.

*()*

Watching my friends open the gifts I had chosen was a far different experience than I had at my parents'. Their expressions of delight were a direct contrast to the tight-lipped scorn the gifts I had given my family had drawn.

Esme's reaction to the lovely blown glass vase was effusive and Alice squealed in delight over the earrings Bella had picked out after I tried to describe her 'style' as best I could. Carlisle was thrilled with the prints I had picked out for his office and Jasper already had plans for a fishing trip for us to use the lures I had found.

I frowned in confusion when Esme handed me another small parcel. I had opened their thoughtful gifts already. "It has your name on it," she explained. "It was in the bag with the others."

I swallowed heavily.

Bella.

With shaky fingers I opened the little parcel. Inside was a small Saint Christopher medallion. The patron saint of travelers. I unfolded the small note.

To help keep you safe. Always, B

My hand came up to rest on my chest, trying to quell the sudden ache. She worried about me. Even after I left she was worried about me.

The memories hit me again. For a moment I was lost in them until the sound of a clearing throat made me look up. I found Esme's eyes right away. They were soft and understanding and she nodded before I even got the words out.

"I have to go back."

*()*

The familiar scenery went by as I drove down the road. The diner was closed since it was New Year's Eve. I hoped Bella would be home when I got there. If not, I would wait.

After my announcement at the Cullens' there had been a flurry of activity around me. Alice jumped on the computer to check out flights and rental cars, while I talked to Esme, who listened with her gentle nature, encouraging me to follow my heart. Even Jasper, my laid back, take-it-as-it-comes friend, agreed I had to do this. Carlisle, in his quiet way, smiled and told me to "go get my girl." As with my family, once again, I had to reach out and try. I only hoped this outcome would be better.

Because of the time of year and the limited flights, today was the earliest I could get a flight; it was only Esme's deep concern and the threat of bad weather that stopped me from jumping in my car and driving back again. I had spent the day before wandering the house, imagining Bella there with me. I could see her sitting on the porch as the sun set, our hand entwined. I could hear her laughter echo in the kitchen as we worked together making a meal. I wanted to see her warm gaze across the table from me. I wanted to feel her pressed up against me in my bed and wake up to her in the morning.

As crazy and fast as it sounded, I wanted to build a life with her.

She understood me, because she had lived through her own kind of neglected childhood. Her parents had dragged her around, only thinking of themselves, and never giving her the things she needed more than anything. Things she deserved.

A home.

To be safe and loved.

To belong.

She had helped me. Cared for me so lovingly; a complete stranger. She had not only opened her house to me, without realizing it she had shown me her heart. She had shared her pain and let me share mine with her. She made me feel. The short time I spent with her had changed me now ... for the better. And I didn't want to go back to being shut off anymore.

After talking to Esme, I understood why she didn't ask me to stay. It wasn't because she didn't feel the same way.

No. She felt something. I could see it in her eyes and feel the way she cared for me; I knew that.

She didn't think herself worthy of asking. She was sending me away to get on with my life, because she thought I had a good one. But she was wrong; something was missing. She was worried she didn't know how to settle in one place or be a partner to someone, because she'd never experienced that her entire life. But she was wrong about that also. She needed someone to love her and let her see how it felt to have someone put her needs and desires over their own. To show her she was worth that.

I knew what was missing for both of us.

Each other.

Now I had to convince her.

I pulled up outside her house. Her large, ugly truck was parked in the driveway. I could see the glow of a light in the window, and I sighed in relief knowing she was in there. I sat quietly, gathering up my courage; I had no idea how she would react to seeing me.

There was only one way to find out.

I walked up the steps, and before I could chicken out, knocked on the door, waiting anxiously as footsteps approached.

The light snapped on over my head and the door swung open. Bella stood in front of me, shock registering on her face when she saw who was at her door. Even surprised, her gaze was welcoming—unlike the one that had greeted me when I saw my family. For a moment, there was silence, and then she spoke. "Edward? What … what are you doing here?" She stepped forward, concerned. "Are you all right?"

I was so anxious to get back here, I hadn't thought of what to say to her. "I … I have to talk to you," I blurted out.

She stepped back, grasping my hand as she pulled me inside with her.

"You were home. You texted me and told me that." Her eyes grew wide with horror. "How did you get back here? You didn't drive again, did you?"

I shook my head. "I flew." My hand tightened on hers. "I had to see you. I had to try. I have to talk to you."

Her brow furrowed but she nodded. "Okay, Edward. Come in and talk."

Once in her living room, I pulled off my coat. I stood looking at her, my eyes drinking her in. It felt like years, not days since I had last seen her. She looked so good to me. Soft, pretty, warm. I wanted so badly to touch her; pull her into my arms and hold her, but I wasn't sure if I could.

"Bella, I—"

She moved closer, now clearly concerned. "Edward, sweetheart, what is it? Why are you here?"

Sweetheart. She called me sweetheart.

I wrapped my arms around her, thrilled when she leaned into my embrace, her face buried into my chest. I held her close, needing to feel her warmth and quiet strength.

Her voice was soft. "What did you mean you had to try? Try what? Why did you need to talk to me?"

There was a tone to her voice; one I prayed was hopeful.

"I made a mistake."

She leaned back, gazing up at me, but didn't leave my arms. "What? Going to see your family?"

"No. You were right—I had to. I'm glad I did that. It proved I was correct and I don't belong in their world. And I told my father off finally. I won't let his opinion of me rule my life anymore."

She smiled and cupped my cheek. "Good. I'm proud of you. But what mistake?"

I drew in a deep breath. "I should have come right back here."

"What do you mean?"

I released her, needing to move and let off some of my nerves. I started to pace. "I should never have left here, Bella. I should never have left you behind." I tugged on my hair. "When I left my parents' I should have come right back here and talked to you. But I didn't know how you would react. If you wanted me to come back." My hands clenched. "You didn't ask me to stay. You let me walk away. Didn't you feel anything for me?"

Her voice quivered. "Yes, I did. I felt a lot of things."

"Then why?"

"I didn't want you to go," she admitted softly. "It took everything I had in me not to come after you when you left. I wanted to ask you … but I was afraid. I wasn't sure how I would handle it if you said no." Her voice became thick with emotion. "I didn't think I could be what you needed."

"You are."

"Edward …"

I stopped in front of her, my entire body shaking. "I want you to come with me," I blurted out.

"What?"

"Come with me, please."

Her brow furrowed. "Where are you going?"

"I want you to come home with me. To Nova Scotia."

She stared at me, speechless.

"Leaving you behind was one of the most painful things I've ever done, Bella. All I can think about is you. How you make me feel. How empty I am without you. How empty my life is without you in it."

Her eyes were wide with surprise. I kept talking.

"I thought I was happy before. I thought my life was settled. But it's not. I'm not. I've been waiting for something and I didn't know what it was until I found you. I was meant to break down the other night. I was meant to find you." I paused. "We need each other, Angel.

"You told me you wanted to find your place in this world. Stop looking." I wrapped my hands around hers. "Find your home with me." I stepped closer. "I have found mine with you."

I kissed her hand softly. "You said you wanted to belong somewhere." I paused. "Belong to me."

"But …"

I shook my head. "No buts. This is real. It's right. I feel it. We'll figure out school and everything—together. We can do it all if we're together."

I took in a deep breath. "I love you."

Her voice was incredulous. "You love me?"

I shrugged self-consciously. "I know I don't have a lot of experience with that emotion, Bella. But if loving you means wanting to be with you, to make you happy, then yes. I want to protect you, care for you, like you did for me. I want to watch you smile. Wipe your tears. Hold you at night. Wake up with you." I paused. "If wanting to do all those things, and be that person for you for the rest of your life means that I love you, then yes, Bella Swan. I love you."

She stared at me, speechless. Her gaze moved between our hands and my eyes.

"A very smart person told me to be happy. You make me happy. They told me to hold onto whatever it was I found that made me feel this way. So I am. It's you. It's all you.

"I love you, Bella. I know this with a certainty beyond comprehension. Stop being alone and searching for your place in this world. It's with me. Let's live our lives together." I smiled at her, even as a tear ran down my cheek. "I want to give you what we saw the other night. A home. One filled with lights and love. A family we created together."

"You want children?"

"With you. Yes. I want everything with you." I tightened my hands around hers. "Please, Angel, rescue me one more time. For the rest of our life."

Her eyes filled with tears. "Edward," she breathed.

"Don't say no, please. I couldn't bear it. I know it's fast, but please, give us a chance."

"I want to," she whispered.

I pulled her into my arms, relief and joy coursing through my body. In that one instant, everything in my life shifted and settled, becoming perfectly clear. If I had her I could do anything. Be anything. As long a she was mine, I would be okay.

"What if I can't be what you need?" she asked, searching my eyes with hers.

"You already are."

"Say it again," she pleaded, her voice vulnerable.

I looked down at her sweet face. "I love you, Bella."

Her beautiful smile lit the room. "I want and feel all those things for you as well. I—I love you too, Edward."

The power of those small words hit me. She offered them without any conditions or reservations. Only truth.

"You'll come with me?"

"Yes."

"Now?"

She frowned, confused. "Um, I need to pack some things up, and let people know."

I nodded. "Of course. I'll help. What doesn't fit in the car we'll ship."

"You don't want to drive my truck?" She teased gently.

"Ah, no. We'll ship it out if you insist."

"Maybe Jake would store it."

"Or sell it." Internally I grinned. I'd happily dip into my trust fund to purchase a nice car for her. Anything for her if it meant she came with me.

"Don't hate the truck." She paused. "Chester?"

I grinned. "My cat twin is welcome. I hope he likes road trips."

"I like road trips."

"I like you."

She blushed sweetly. "What will your friends think when you come home with me?"

"They can hardly wait to meet you. I told them all about you and they know how I feel." I drew my fingers down her cheek. "I've been searching for you. And now I've found you, I'm not letting go." I kissed her warmly. "They are gonna love you. I have a feeling you and Alice are going to be best friends. And Esme will spoil you." I tightened my hand in reassurance. "Life will be good for us, Bella. I promise."

Her voice was quiet. "I know."

I pulled her into my arms, nuzzling the top of her head. We stayed locked together, enjoying the moment of unexpected happiness.

Bella tilted her head back. "What now?"

"I'll go find some boxes."

She chuckled. "Everything is closed. It's New Year's Eve. Tomorrow I'll call Leah and ask if she has empty ones from the store we can have."

"How do you think she and Jake will react?"

Bella smiled. "Leah wanted to know why I let you leave. She said she knew we belonged together when she saw us together in her store." She sighed. "I'll miss them, but they knew I was leaving soon anyway. I think they might be surprised at the news, but they'll be happy for me. She and Jake will help if we need it." She looked around. "It won't take long. There isn't much. Most of this belongs to Lauren. I'll have to call and tell her."

I lifted her chin. "They're just things. Take or leave whatever you want. We'll build a life together, Bella. One full of love. We'll fill boxes with pictures and our hearts with memories. We'll do it together." I wiped away a glistening tear from the side of her eye. "You're never going to be alone again."

"Neither are you."

Our eyes met and held. My entire future was held inside the glimmering depths of soft blue. Gently, I traced her damp cheek.

"We'll start off the new year together, Angel."

"Together."

My mouth covered hers.

I was home.

*()* Two years later on Christmas Eve…

Bella was asleep on the couch, curled up under the blanket I had draped over her. I loved watching her sleep. She always smiled and muttered, lost in a dream world I would never know about. Except the fact she often said my name, which made me smile; I liked knowing I was in there somewhere.

Today however, she grimaced more than smiled and her feet moved restlessly. The storm was making her nervous and disturbing her sleep. I leaned up from my place on the floor, where I had been gazing at the lights on our Christmas tree, and rubbed her rounded stomach soothingly, murmuring nonsensical words to our daughter. That did the trick, as it always did. The rapid movements stopped for both of them, and my girls relaxed. Smiling, I left my hand on Bella's stomach as I watched her, thinking about the last two years.

The happiest two years of my life.

Bella was everything I had been looking for, but never knew I needed. She filled a void in my life I hadn't even known existed. She showed me how to be happy being Edward, and I showed her how it felt to be someone's priority. Everything I did, every decision was made with her happiness in mind.

Together we built a home and a life.

Together we were strong.

As I expected, Esme, Carlisle, Alice and Jasper loved her. Esme took her under her wing and Bella blossomed. I stopped trying to gain the approval of my family and instead basked in the unconditional love of the Cullens. They became the family both Bella and I never had.

The week after we arrived home, Esme introduced Bella to old Mr. Newton, who not only ran our town library but also owned a small, but impressive book store in town that specialized in finding, restoring and selling old books. Bella had worked with him ever since, happy and content as she learned with him and took the University courses she needed and wanted to study.

My Angel blossomed with the love that now surrounded her. I blossomed because of hers.

So many memories stirred as I watched my wife slumber.

The day I stumbled, frozen and alone into Bella's life.

The day she said she loved me and I knew my heart would never again feel so cold.

Our quiet, beautiful wedding in our back yard, where we promised each other we'd never be alone again.

The poignant moment she told me I was going to be a father and the joy that I felt tore through my entire being.

All the laughter and tears we had shared. The deep peace and happiness she brought to my life.

Suddenly, I needed to be closer. I needed to touch her. I moved up and gently traced her cheek with my mouth, her soft skin warm under my lips. Her eyes fluttered open and she grinned at me. "Hey."

"Hi," I whispered.

"You okay, sweetheart?"

I nodded. "I just needed to kiss you."

"Well, then—" She smiled sleepily. "Kiss away."

My lips pressed to hers happily, moving together effortlessly, the kiss soft and loving. My hands cupped her face, my thumbs stroking her skin in gentle circles.

Bella abruptly stiffened and pulled away.

"What's wrong?"

Her eyes flew down to her stomach before meeting mine. "I think your daughter is ready to meet you."

I was on my feet in a second.

"Now? It's storming! Tell her to wait!"

Bella began to chuckle. "I don't think that is gonna work, Daddy." She held out her hand and I helped her sit up. "Call Jasper. He has the truck ready in case." She grimaced. "That damn Alice is always right. She said it would be today."

I was already on the phone. After Jasper assured me he was on the way and Alice would call Esme and Carlisle, I hurried back to Bella. "He's on his way."

She smiled calmly. "My bag is by the door. I need to change. Can you help, please?"

I fumbled, trying to get her dressed in our bedroom, my hands shaking with nerves. "Edward," she soothed. "Relax. Everything is fine."

I nodded as I tugged on her boots, unable to speak and not sure how she could be so calm right now. Her hand tilted my face up. "Hey."

I looked up into her warm eyes. "Edward, I need you right now. You've been so strong my whole pregnancy. Don't lose it now."

I swallowed, unsure how to explain my sudden panic. "What if—"

"What if what?"

"What if I'm an awful father? I didn't have a good example growing up." Another terrible thought occurred to me. "What if she doesn't like me?"

Bella cupped my face firmly. "You are nothing like your father. You are going to be an amazing daddy. You'll be funny, kind, loving and affectionate. Your daughter is going to adore you. Just like I do."

I drew in a shaky breath. "Promise?"

"Promise."

"Okay."

"I love you."

The words never failed to make me smile. "I love you, Angel."

*()*

She was perfect. Tiny and wiggly, her skin a mottled pink, and her fist jammed into her little rosebud mouth; I couldn't bear to put her down for a second. Angela Esme Masen had already stolen my heart. I didn't know it was possible for one person to feel this much love.

Bella had worked so hard to bring her into this world. Her labor had been long, but finally, after seventeen hours, my daughter had screamed her way into our life, protesting loudly at being moved from her little nest.

I looked over at Bella who was watching us wearily, with a tired smile on her face. "You need to put her in her bassinette, Edward."

"Soon," I lied.

A nurse walked in and checked on Bella. She smiled as she shook her head at me, knowing full well I had been holding her since the last time she checked on my wife. "What a good daddy," she crooned softly. "Get some sleep, Mrs. Masen. You'll need it." She paused on her way out of the room. "Merry Christmas."

I smiled at her. "It certainly is."

I looked down at my slumbering daughter. "I met your mommy two years ago today. She was like an angel to me." I chuckled as I stroked her downy little cheek. "I fell in love with her that special day as well." I stood up and placed her into Bella's outstretched arms. Leaning down, I kissed them both and smiled as I took in the sight of both of my girls. My family.

"Now I have two angels."

My wife smiled at me. "Merry Christmas, Edward."

I kissed her again.

My Bella. My life. I was so blessed.

"Merry Christmas, Angel."


As promised - your HEA. They found what they were looking for - each other. They are happy and have a good life. And I hope you are happy now as well.

I wish you all much love during this holiday season. However you celebrate and whatever phrase you say to express your thoughts, I wish you nothing but peace and happiness. Thank you for reading my work. Your reviews make me smile, your thoughts often make me laugh and I am grateful for each and every one of you.

Bless you all. See you in 2014 with my new story - My Heart~My Home.

Be safe.