Summary: He's a coldhearted businessman who's set in his ways. He wants perfection, but doesn't see it from anyone, ever. What if he tastes the other life, will he go back and if he does will he change? AH/Rated M E-28/B-18
All normal disclaimers apply. Thank you, to Jess2002 and AWayWithWords for all of their hard work on this story—all mistakes are those of Nikky and Kasi.
Where Heaven Leads
I look at Tanya as she talks, never breaking eye contact as I drink my coffee. "We have the Masen Dinner on the fourth, the Masked Ball on the tenth and the Company Christmas Party on the twentieth."
I frown at her, hating the idea of having to attend the Christmas party especially.
"We don't have to stay long, twenty minutes tops. You have to show the riff raff that we've seen them, and thank them for their hard work. You know, feeding them tidbits socially, builds a good working relationship with them. Besides praising their hard work, makes them work harder for you."
I roll my eyes at her words. They work hard, my ass! I work a hundred and thirty hours a week, most of them complain if they have to pull a forty-five-hour work week.
"I am leaving on the cruise on the twenty first, are you sure you don't want to come?"
I shake my head at her; she knows I hate vacations.
"Remember to call Esme on the twenty fifth then."
I frown; didn't I just call her on Mother's Day? She's not even my mother. "What's so special about the twenty fifth?" I ask.
"The twenty fifth is Christmas day."
I nod, not really caring one way or the other. "I'll get Kate to add it to my planner," I say once Tanya stops talking, and then I begin to eat my breakfast. When I'm done, I stand up, leaving my dishes where they are.
"Oh, Edward, I think we should go with Carmen to plan the whole wedding thing for us; after all, she said she would need only a little input from either us. I've already given her your clothing measurements and told her on which dates our wedding cannot be held. She seemed to be confident that she'd be able to get it all worked out."
I acknowledge her with a nod and walk out. I head toward my personal elevator to go downstairs to my office. I'm almost there when a strange noise catches my attention. I walk over to see a tattered, old dirty cloth laying there.
"What the hell is this?" I say picking it up.
"Mr. Cullen, Sir, I'm so very sorry, my brother's scarf must have dropped from my pocket. I am so sorry, Sir."
I push whatever it was into the maid's waiting hands.
"Please do not bring your junk into my home," I say harshly. I tap my foot waiting for the elevator. The maid thankfully gets her head on straight and gets back to what she's supposed to be doing. She presses the button for the doors to open for me, and quickly wipes the panel free of prints. As the door opens, I see her on her knees, wiping the floor free of the dirt and scum the rag she called a scarf left on my marble flooring.
"If this," I point to the floor, "happens again, I will fire you," I say walking into the elevator. My eyes catch hers as the door closes and she looks close to tears. Good, employees should be afraid for their employer, it makes them work harder. This was the first rule of business that my father taught me to be successful.
I am twenty-eight years old and have been with Tanya for eight of those years. We know each other and neither of us are really into the intimate side of our relationship. We have been together intimately, but only when one of us has an itch to scratch. Personally, I've never seen what the fuss is about with getting someone else's sweat all over you.
I run a multimillion dollar business that deals with companies, banks, homes, cars, utilities ... well, it has its hand in just about everything there is to make money from.
My main office building is in Los Angeles. It has eighty-eight floors and is the tallest building downtown. The top three floors make up what I call my home. My offices and business takes up the other eighty-five floors. Entering the eighty-fifth floor, I walk past Kate who is already sitting at her desk.
"I need you to add this to my planner," I say handing her the list that Tanya left on the table for me to pass on to her. "By the way, put whichever maid that's working the main floor of my home on a written warning. Be sure that she knows that if she steps out of line again, she's fired." I walk into my office and start to work.
I am only halfway through my workload when there is an incoming buzz on the intercom.
I press the button to respond. "Yes, Kate?" I ask without taking my eyes off of my task at hand.
"Mr. Cullen, I was just checking to see if you needed anything before I go today? If not, I'm heading out for the day." I glance at the intercom and see it is only six, but she has put in her required twelve-hour day.
"Fine, I need nothing else from you right now. I'll see you tomorrow," I say going back to my work.
I work for a few more hours before heading back upstairs. I heat my dinner and eat it in the kitchen alone. When I'm done, I leave my plate knowing the night staff will clean it and walk to my bedroom.
"Goodnight, Edward," Tanya says sleepily as I pass her room.
"Goodnight, Tanya," I reply as I head into my room. I get undressed, and place my clothes on the chair inside my dressing room to be collected and disposed of, or discarded appropriately. I put on my silk pajamas, brush my teeth, and set my alarm to go off in three hours. I climb onto my bed, cover up, close my eyes, and fall asleep.
When my alarm goes off, I get up, leave my pajamas on the dressing chair where I left my clothes last night, and put on my workout clothing. I go to my personal fitness center inside the levels of my home and head for the treadmill. I run five miles and follow the workout routine my trainer set up for me. Energized and sweat running down my face, I wrap my towel around my neck and I head back to my dressing room. I leave my workout clothing where my silk pajamas were, before heading to the shower. I scrub myself clean, and then wrap a warm towel around me as I shave. I brush my teeth and return to the dressing room. I drop my towel on the back of the dressing chair and move about picking out my suit for the day. This is how I begin my day, which is exactly how all my days go.
The alarm on my desk goes off, alerting me of a meeting. I look to my planner and see that I have a dinner meeting to attend. I collect my things, pick up my jacket and head down to the car.
"Good evening, Sir."
I nod at Eric. "Evening, Eric," I say as he opens my door allowing me into the backseat of my car.
The drive does not take us long, and I make my way into the restaurant.
"I have a reservation for a dinner meeting for Cullen and Volturi," I say to the host as I look to see where Aro is sitting. I see him at the far end of the restaurant.
"This way, Sir." I move before the host is able to stand.
"Good evening, Aro," I say arriving at the table.
"Sir, here's your menu and your server will be right out now that you have arrived," the host says sounding out of breath.
"You are aware that you are meant to allow the host to lead you to the table, young Edward?" I look at Aro and roll my eyes. Aro is a very carefree and happy person. I don't think I've ever seen him sad or angry, not even when one of his sons lost a billion dollars. Aro just shrugged it off and said something about not taking it with him?
"Here are the plans—"
Aro cuts me off by snatching my folder from my hands. "Edward, my boy, let's have dinner and chat a little, business can wait."
I sigh and look at my watch. "What would you like to chat about?" I ask and he shakes his head at me.
"How is the lovely Tanya?"
I close my eyes. "She's fine; I am sure, lovely as she normally is."
Aro nods at me with a strange look on his face. "I hear that the two of you are getting married?"
I shrug at him and lean back in my chair. "Yes, that is the plan. I think Carmen somebody is handling the details, though."
Aro just shakes his head and chuckles at me, but is interrupted by the server.
"Good Evening gentlemen, I'm Rachel and I'll be your server for this evening."
"I will have the steak, rare please," I say without looking to her.
The rest of the table puts in their orders and Aro looks at me the whole time.
"Are you happy?" Aro asks as he keeps staring at me.
"What does my happiness have to do with our business meeting?"
Aro tilts his head and continues to look at me. "Please, just humor an old man."
I let out a sigh and close my eyes. I would very much like to walk out of here, but I know this joining of our companies will make my business loads of money and make my company grow even more.
"I'm healthy and I keep myself that way through healthy eating and exercise. I have money, a home, a thriving business, which is the second biggest in the world, and a beautiful wife-to-be."
Aro chuckles and takes a hold of my hand. "That's not what I asked, Edward. I asked if you were happy."
I start to feel freaked out over the fact that he's touching me. I don't like to touch others or be touched. Aro's touch is strange—cold—almost if he's made from clay.
"Ye ... yes," I say shakily.
"Are you aware if we go ahead with not only the joint venture proposed and the construction, we'll be tearing down some homes and free community shelter places?"
I look at him trying to figure where he is going with this. He really has me freaked out because he still has my hand. I can feel myself starting to panic. In that second I know what I have to do, switch it off. Another lesson my father taught me well was how to switch off my emotions.
"One of the places is Where Heaven Leads. It's a community center that helps the local people looking after ill members of their family. They help all low income families, whether it is, physical, mental or emotional help." Aro stops talking and just looks at me again.
"Yes, I'm aware of that. I am also aware that they rely on donations to run the place, and this year the donations were very low. I know that even without this joint venture and construction, they're likely to only last another month—two at most. Which means the place will be closing down with or without our joint venture. Their own bad planning and failure to raise funds is bringing them down."
Aro tightens his grip on my hand. "We build walls to keep ourselves safe and the enemies out, but most of the time the enemy is within those walls we have built. The problem is we are unable to see it, until it's too late."
I swallow and look at him.
"Please excuse me, Sir."
I jump a little and Aro lets my hand go. I immediately put it under the table, in my lap, away from Aro. The server sets out our meals and then leaves.
The meal goes quickly and Aro thankfully gets to the task at hand. The business meeting is completed and all parties agree. We're moving forward on this joint venture, with a thirty-day pull out for either party.
We all stand and Aro puts out his hand for me to shake. I reluctantly take it not wanting to appear rude. "There are those who own everything, but have no one to live for. Then there are some that own nothing, but have that one person to who they'd die for. Which are you?" Aro asks.
I tilt my head at Aro. "I would say that I am both," I reply a little confused.
Aro shakes his head at me. "Are you? Sometimes we need to open the gate in the wall to let that one person in. Maybe there's one person who can show you the walls aren't needed to keep you safe when you have them." Aro grins at me and taps the back of my hand that he's still clutching in a handshake, with his left hand. "Sometimes we lose our way, only to find that we weren't on the correct path to begin with." When he's done speaking he gives me a smile, lets go of my hand, and walks away.
I watch him walk out the door and shake my head at the battiness of the old man. I walk out to my awaiting car; Eric gives me a nod, and opens my door. The drive home, like always, is swift and quiet. When we get to my building Eric opens my door, letting me out.
"I will not need your services again tonight," I say walking to the door. I enter the lobby and walk past the security and straight to my private elevator. The doors close and I start to go up. I keep looking forward at the mirror in front of me. This is something Tanya added, a few years ago, but I don't really like it. I don't spend much time looking at myself; when I do, I'm often caught off guard by unsettling feelings and surprised at the changes in me. It's been eighteen years from the last time I really saw myself staring back at me.
"One hundred, here I come ready or not," Ms. Esme, my nanny, calls. I cover my mouth trying not to laugh out loud. Father doesn't like noise and Ms. Esme said it's best not to make any loud ones if he was here or not.
I peek out and see her coming my way. I love Ms. Esme. She's the twentieth nanny I've had, that I can remember. But, she's the best of all of them. I often worry because she's been here much longer than the rest ever stayed before.
"Is mo fuamie, behind the curtains?" I shake my head even if she can't see me. "Nope, he's not there," she says walking around the room. "Is he behind the chair?" Again I shake my head and hold in my giggle. "He not there, which means my mo fuamie is behind the storage chest," she says jumping in front of me. She pulls me to her and starts to tickle me. I laugh and wiggle away from her.
"Ms. Platt!" I hear my father say harshly.
I move trying to hide and I feel Ms. Esme hold me tighter.
"Come with me now!"
She lets me go, walking away with my father.
It's been a little bit and Ms. Esme hasn't come back and she always tucks me in at night. I walk to my father's office and knock lightly, and my father tells me to come in.
"Why are you not in bed, young man?"
I look to the floor holding my teddy close to me. "Ms. Esme hasn't come to tuck me in yet." I hold my teddy closer as I hear my father get up and move toward me.
"Ms. Esme no longer works here, now get to bed," he says.
I feel sad and unsure because she promised, and even crossed her heart that she wouldn't just leave me.
"Boys do not show their emotions and they do not play with soft toys," my father says, taking my teddy bear from me. I look to the teddy bear, and hold back a whimper. Not only is it my only toy, but it also belonged to my mother, she gave it to me a few years ago, when she first became ill. After she passed, I would often talk to the teddy and pretend it was my mom I was talking to.
"Bed, right now boy, or you'll be getting a spanking and no food tomorrow." I hang my head and walk quickly back to my room.
The ping on the elevator door makes me jump and brings me out of the thoughts of my past.
I yawn as I make my way to my bedroom.
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas!"
I look around not seeing anyone or anything. I shake my head and the lights flicker on and off. Just as they go off I feel myself trip and fall to the ground. The last thing I see is the tattered rag the maid had yesterday. She's fired crosses my mind and then everything goes black.
I move my hand to my head and rub it, opening one of my eyes as light hits me. I move my hand in front of my eyes trying to block out the light. I close and open my eyes a few times trying to adapt myself to the brightness. Once I am able to withstand the light, I open my eyes and look around. I frown seeing that I'm in what appears to be a hospital room. I move to get up and shake my head at the stuff that's in my room. Everything seems to be in working order, but it's just not what I'd expect to see inside of a private room.
I pick up the bag that looks to have my clothing in it. I empty it out seeing there's what appear to be worn jeans, a t-shirt, shirt, tennis shoes, socks, and a worn leather jacket. "This isn't my stuff," I say out loud.
I hear the door open and someone whistles as they walk into the room. I move the drawn curtain out the way, and see a young man sitting on the bed that's across from mine.
"Who are you and why are you in my room?" I ask the man who looks back at me with a raised eyebrow.
"This is my room, too, buddy. Jaspers' the name, and you are?" he says in a Texan accent.
I tilt my head looking at him, because most people know exactly who I am. "Edward Cullen," I say and the man's face doesn't react or change at all as he keeps looking me up and down.
"You may want to put some clothes on. I think the nurses will have a problem with you running free like that," he says pointing at me.
I look down and see that I am naked. I let out a long sigh and move back into the bed I woke up on and cover myself with the scratchy white sheet. "James, have you seen my clothes?" I ask. When James fails to answer me I turn and look at him. "James?" I frown when James doesn't even look my way. I get up and move back to him and clear my throat. James turns and looks at me. "Have you ... seen ... my clothes?" I say slowly.
"Sorry there, Edward, I didn't know you were talking to me."
I pinch my nose. "I said your name, didn't I?"
James starts to shake his head at me. "No, you said James, my name is Jasper."
I tilt my head and then shake it. "What's the difference?" I ask getting annoyed as he obviously knew I was talking to him.
"One is my name, the other is not."
I let out a sigh. "Well, JASPER," I say and he nods at me approvingly with a smirk. "Have you seen my clothes?"
"They should be in a bag by your bed. That's where mine were." Jasper gives me one last smiling nod and goes back to his magazine.
I move back to the bed I was in and grab the sheet and cover myself before buzzing for a nurse.
I sit and wait for what feels like hours before a nurse turns up.
"Yes?" she says as she resets the call button.
"I need my clothes," I say and she looks at me then to the clothes that are on the bed.
"Sir, those were the clothes you had on when you came in," she says pointing at the clothes on the bed.
"These clothes are not mine. I have no idea where they came from."
The nurse shrugs her shoulders not appearing to be affected by what I am saying. "I'm sorry, Sir, but that's what you had on when you came into the emergency room yesterday. Now, I will need to collect some of your personal details, and is there someone I can call for you to tell them you're here?"
I sigh and pinch my nose for the second time in the past short while. "My name is Edward Anthony Cullen, and you could call my fiancée Tanya ..."
Then I stop having noticed that the nurse reacts much the same way in which James—no Jasper did, when I said my name.
"Can I have her number?" the nurse asks.
I let out a long breath and give her Tanya's number. "Tell her to fire the maid that was on a written warning, and to send Eric with a suit along with the car to get me."
The nurse looks at me like I'm nuts, but gives me a small head shake and walks away.
"You've got a driver and a maid?" Jasper asks once the door is closed.
"I have six drivers, thirty maids, and over a million employees. I'm Edward Cullen, of Cullen ICO."
Jasper again appears not to know what I am talking about. "Sorry pal, is that a European place?"
I shake my head at him. "No, my building is downtown, it's the tallest building in downtown LA," I say and his eye go wide.
"Are you talking about the Volturi bank that's run by Aro Volturi and his sons?"
My head snaps up and my eyes meet his. "What?" I ask.
"The tallest building, all eighty-eight floors, belongs to Aro Volturi; he's one of the wealthiest men in the world. Must be nice; are you like one of his sons-in-law or something?"
Before I can say a word, the nurse has comes back. "Sorry Sir, but Mrs. Pace says she doesn't know who you are."
I glare at the nurse and her inability to do her job correctly. "Maybe that's because you talked to the wrong person; I don't know a Mrs. Pace."
The nurse just looks at me. "Mrs. Pace was the owner of the number you gave me," she says in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Where is a phone that I can use?" I say harshly to her.
"There is one at the main desk, but you will have to get dressed first," she says trying to make her voice seem firm.
"I can't, I don't have my clothes," I say and she sighs and points to the ones on the bed.
"Look here, I have billions in my bank accounts. I don't wear the same thing twice. Why the hell would I wear hand-me-down clothes? Now find someone that can help me since you are unable to do your job correctly."
The nurse backs away from me and cringes before running out of the room.
"That my friend, was uncalled for, she's just doing her job. You were just unwilling to accept the answer she's giving you."
I glare at Jasper and turn my head away from him. I close my eyes trying to flick the switch in my mind to turn everything off. A little time passes and a woman places some weird stuff in a bowl on a tray in front of me. I look at it then to Jasper who seems to be happy to be eating it.
"What is this?" I say pointing at the dish.
"It's oatmeal," Jasper replies slowly like he talking to someone who's impaired.
I push it away from me and close my eyes again.
"Hey man, are you going to eat that?" Jasper asks.
I look at him with a frown and shake my head at him.
"Do you care if I eat it then? It has been a few days since I last ate and I'm not sure when I'll be eating again. Besides it would be a waste of food," he goes on.
I try not to show the disgust on my face as I wave my hand at him to take it.
Jasper seems to be happily eating. I close my eyes again, only for the room door to open after a few minutes.
"Hello, Mr. Cullen, I am Carlisle. I am a psychiatrist here at the hospital."
I look at him a little shocked. "Why would I need to talk to you? I need the nurse to call the number I gave her, so that Tanya can send my car and clothes for me."
Carlisle tilts his head and sits down next to me. "Tell me about yourself?" he asks in a calm voice.
"I'm twenty-eight; my name is Edward Anthony Cullen. My father was Anthony Edward Cullen. My mother was Elizabeth Mary Masen Cullen. I own Cullen ICO, which is known worldwide. The building I own, here in LA, is famous and known as the tallest building downtown."
"Hmm," Carlisle hums out. "Edward, how did you end up here?"
I shake my head, trying not to get worked up. This really isn't his fault; he must just have a poor education.
"I'm not sure, I had a business meeting. I went home and as I got off the elevator, I heard a voice: 'Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas' echo through my head; my lights were flickering and I tripped over some old rag my now ex-maid left laying around."
Again Carlisle just hums. "Could you put on these clothes and come with me?"
I look to the clothes and shake my head. "No, I can't put them on," I say.
"Well, Mr. Cullen, I could get you some hospital scrubs."
I frown at him again in disgust.
"It's the hospital scrubs or these clothes—you can't walk about the hospital naked."
I am a little taken back by his tone. "Believe me, when I get this sorted, you will not have a job."
Carlisle just gives me a smile.
I reluctantly put on the clothes that have a sweaty, dirty smell to them. I walk behind Carlisle until we get to the door that has Carlisle McCarty on it. He opens it and allows me in, and closes the door behind us.
"This is a video of you coming into the emergency room last night," Carlisle says turning his computer monitor around for me to see.
I watch as I stagger in saying my name and that I am homeless. I listen to the video as I tell them I suffered a bump on the head, which has caused a bad headache.
"This is impossible, what exactly is going on? Who do you work for?" I yell standing up from the chair I was sitting in.
Carlisle holds up his hands. "I work for the hospital. I'm sorry this wasn't what you wanted to see and hear. To be honest, I think you may have had a mental break."
I shake my head at him. "I will get to the bottom of this and I swear here and now, I will get each person responsible."
I turn and walk out of the hospital heading right for home. It takes me over two hours to walk there. I walk in heading for my elevator only to be stopped by my security officers.
"Sir, can we help you?" one asks as he pulls me back a little.
"What?" I yell out making people turn my way.
"I own this building and therefore, you work—well did work, for me. I'm going upstairs to my home," I say pushing past them only for them to pull me back again.
"Do not touch me," I say as I get closer and closer to losing control.
"What seems to be the problem here?" I turn recognizing the voice. My mouth drops open and Tanya walks my way, but there seem to be something different about her.
"Mrs. Pace, we're just stopping this man from going upstairs. He claims he owns the building," the security guy tells her.
I watch as she looks at me in sympathy, something I've never seen in her features before.
"Will you tell them who I am, Tanya," I say as she tilts her head at me when I say her name.
"Do I know you?"
I look her as if she's off her rocker like everyone else I've encountered today.
"Yes, I'd say so since I'm your fiancé. We are to be married; Carmen is handling everything," I say as she keeps looking my way.
"Mommy," a little girl calls out.
I move and look behind her to see a young girl running toward Tanya. To my surprise, Tanya smiles and picks her up. "Jane, what did I say about running in the lobby?"
The girl looks down sadly, but Tanya smiles and tickles her a little and has her laughing. "I'm sorry, I just wanted to show you my picture, do you think Santa will like it?" she asks handing her drawing to Tanya who gladly accepts it.
"Wow, that is amazing, and Santa will love it, I'm sure," Tanya says.
"Hey, babe, sorry about that."
I look behind Tanya to see a man come up to her and kiss her fully on the lips. I frown as Tanya seems to be happy with this. She's always been more like me and didn't like public displays of affection; well at least I thought she didn't. "Now, where's my other boy?" Tanya says looking down.
I follow her movement and watch as a boy jumps out and Tanya acts like she's gotten a fright from it.
"How was school?" Tanya asks and the boy smiles brightly up at her.
"It was great and Jane kissed a boy," he says smiling smugly at his sister.
"I did not, Alec stop lying."
The children squabble for a few moments and Tanya gets in between them.
"Okay, enough you two, mom needs to help this man, and then I'll be ready to go so we can get our tree."
The kids look my way only for a few seconds before cheering. The man keeps looking at me then to Tanya, but she tells him to go. She watches them walk away before turning back to me.
"I am sorry about that, Mr. ... um, sorry what did you say your name was?" Tanya says looking at me.
"Edward Cullen," I say still feeling shocked.
"Why don't you come with me and we can have a talk?" Tanya says softly, in a voice I've really never heard her use before.
I follow her into the elevator and we go all the way to the top, but when the doors open, I don't recognize a thing.
"Bella," Tanya calls and a few moments later a small maid comes out.
"Yes, Ma'am." Tanya smiles at her.
"Do you have any of that yummy cake left?" The maid looks at me then to Tanya and smiles nodding.
"Yes, Ma'am," the maid replies again.
"Could you cut me a few pieces, and bring it along with some juice and sandwiches to the back office."
The girl who seems to be looking between Tanya and I, nods. "Yes, of course, Ma'am," the maid moves away quickly.
"Bella is just a new employee; she's only been here a month or two. But the girl can bake, her cakes are amazingly good. I love them a little too much; at the rate I am going, I'll need to start going to the gym."
I tilt my head. The Tanya I knew hated unhealthy things, and she went to the gym every day. Her biggest goal was her want to keep her size two shape.
"Please take a seat, Mr. Cullen."
I sit down and look around. "What's the date today?" I ask and Tanya looks at me with a lot more sympathy than shock … horror.
"It's the twenty third of November, 2013," she says.
I frown knowing my meeting with Aro ended last night at ten, and it is now twelve hours later. I close my eyes, but open them when I feel someone softly touch my hand. Tanya's soft eyes are looking right into mine.
"Mr. Cullen, is there someone, anyone I can call for you? I believe I got a call from a nurse at the hospital about you earlier?"
I just look at her trying hard to find the Tanya I've known for over ten years. Hell, I've dated for eight of them, and lived with her for the past six of them.
There's a knock on the door and I turn and see the maid come in. "Thank you, Bella, just put it there on the table. Head home now or you will be late to get Joshua," Tanya says moving across the room to the desk.
"Oh … and before I forget, here."
My face drops as I see the same rag that I tripped on, in Tanya's hand.
"I think Joshua must have left it behind when he was here with you the other day," Tanya says as she hands it over to the maid.
"You, it was you, what have you done?" I say jumping up grabbing a hold of the maid.
"Mr. Cullen, please let go of Bella right now," Tanya yells, but my eyes are locked on the rag which is in front of me.
"I ... I'm sorry, but I …" she stutters out.
"Unhand her right now!" Tanya says placing her hand on my arm.
"No, she's done this – this was the thing I tripped on. What is your game, little girl?" I say with a sneer.
I watch as the tears start to fall from her eyes.
"Mr. Cullen, please calm yourself, Bella has done nothing to you," Tanya says again.
"Edward, let her go!" I drop my hands and turn to see Aro walking my way.
"Are you two in this together; how did you get everything done so fast?"
Aro tilts his head at me. "Bella, you may head on home now." Aro dismisses her.
The maid nods and almost runs out of the room.
"Tanya, you are free to go, too."
Tanya looks worryingly at him and then to me.
"I'll be fine; go and be with your family," Aro says and I realize her worry is for Aro's safety.
Tanya sighs and walks over to Aro. She whispers something into his ear, but I can't make it out. Aro sits down and just looks at me.
"Just you and me now, are you going tell me how the hell you pulled this off?" I ask getting more and more pissed off.
"I really have no idea what you are talking about; now Edward, my boy, tell me your story."
I chuckle shaking my head. "If you don't know me, then why call me Edward and not Mr. Cullen like everyone else?"
"My security said that you call yourself Edward Cullen, are they wrong?"
I narrow my eyes at him. "What the hell is going on? Why is everyone acting like they don't know me?" I yell.
"Why don't you tell me what's been happening?"
I shake my head at him, jumping up. "I swear I will get to the bottom of this!" I walk quickly out only to be met by the security team, who takes great pleasure in showing me the door.
I wrap the jacket around me as I start to walk the streets unsure of what else I can do. It doesn't take me long to come across a place I've never seen before.
I walk over to the bench and just sit looking out at the water. I am surprised how calm it makes me feel. I've never been to the beach before despite always living a few miles from one.
"Charlie, come back."
My head whips up and I look to see a dog running my way with a boy hot on its heels. I jump back a little when it starts to pant and puts his head on my lap.
"I'm sorry, Sir," the boy says, a little out of breath.
I look him up and down to see that he must be eight at most. I move back trying hard to put some distance between myself and the drooling dog.
"Don't worry, Sir, he doesn't bite."
I look at the boy who's smiling away at me.
"Joshua, Charlie," a female voice yells and I'm sure I've heard it before. I look to the boy who pales, but is still looking at me.
"Please, Sir, don't say I dropped the leash, she won't let me hold it again if you do."
I look at the boy and I'm puzzled. He seems so carefree even with the worry of not being allowed to hold the leash again. He doesn't seem to have any true worries in the world.
"Joshua, Charlie, what did I tell you two about walking that far in front of me?"
I move my head seeing once again the maid—Bella, I believe her name is.
"Not you again," I say rudely.
"Oh, are you okay, Sir? Charlie didn't hurt you did he?"
I look at her, and it pisses me off she looks so good and pure. Her face matches everything we have been led to believe that an angel would look like. But, as the bible says, beware of the wolf in the sheep's clothing.
She tilts her head at me questioningly.
"No, the dog has not hurt me," I say in a snarky voice.
"Bells, do you know him?"
I don't take my eyes off of Bella, and she looks sadly at me and then to the boy. "No Joshua, not really, he was at my work earlier. Come on, get Charlie so we can go, Mom will be worrying about us," she says looking to the boy. "Are you okay, Sir?" she asks looking back at me.
I am confused by the kindness that I can hear in her voice.
"If you need a place to go, there's a place called, Where Heaven Leads, it's only a few minutes' walk from here. They can help you, if you don't have anywhere to go," she says in the same caring tone.
I frown a little at first in confusion. What led me to this area, and why, after I've not been nice to her, is she being nice to me.
"I'm just great, so don't go worrying yourself over little ole me."
She bites her lip and still looks at me worryingly for a few more minutes and then walks off with the dog and boy.
I rub my face and start to look out at the water again. As night falls I pull my jacket even closer, more than a little shocked by just how cold it gets during dusk. I stand and start to walk around. It seems with every corner I turn, there seems to be a group of homeless people around.
"Hey, Eddie," I hear and frown, turning to see the man from the hospital coming my way. "Jasper, remember?" he says when he reaches me.
I nod at him and he looks at me as if he is waiting for me to do or say something.
"Are you on your way to the shelter?" he asks after a few seconds of staring at me. I feel myself frown at him unsure of what he's talking about. I shake my head and he points down the road and pulls on my arm. We start to walk and I just go the direction he does. Each time we have to turn he points the way. After a few minutes he begins to talk again.
"They have leek soup tonight, it's really good."
I say nothing as he rattles on about this and that. I follow him in and try hard not to panic seeing all the homeless people that are in the one small room.
"They're planning on doing a nice turkey dinner for Christmas day, we will need to get here early or they will have eaten it all," Jasper says as he looks at me picking up on my panic.
"Look, I don't belong here, and if you like turkey that much, then get a job," I yell out. Jasper just looks at me again. "I need to go, I can't be here," I say and turn and walk out.
When I get outside, I shake my body and let out the breath I had been holding from what seems like the moment Jasper showed up.
I start to walk again, but with every corner I turn, I am met with more things I've never been worried or even concerned about. To me homeless people are homeless through their own faults. They are the dirt of society, the dirt on our shoes that are keeping this great nation from becoming everything it can and could be.
Where I still very much believe that, I now feel what I think is pity for them, something I've never felt before. I don't think I've ever felt pity for anyone before. Not even when Tanya told me about the time she miscarried a child, albeit not my child, as if.
As the night goes on it gets colder. I keep moving and walking around. I don't think I could sleep even if I wanted to.
I chuckle as I remember when I was nine or ten and I wanted to go camping after watching the film, Carry on Camping. My father of course, said no, that 'roughing it' was not for us. He went on to say it was how cavemen lived and we had evolved from them into a better race of men.
Ms. Esme had only just started to be my nanny. It was her that allowed me to watch the film. My father didn't like television or movies, and normally I was only allowed to watch education or political programs, of which my father would pre-approve. But, Dad was away and she brought the movie over with her. We had great fun eating the chocolate fudge cake and marshmallows.
So when he came back, I was in a hyper mood and asked and asked him to come camping with me. After an hour, I was spanked and then made to read the Spanish dictionary. When he left two days later, Esme brought a tent with her and we camped in the backyard. That night began our secret pack. If I wanted to try something, Ms. Esme said if she thought it was okay, she'd let me try it when my father was absent, which thankfully was a lot.
Four days have passed, and I'm still stuck in the hellhole life I don't know. I've Googled myself and I found nothing of my life. Everything about who I am seems to have been completely erased. The life that it says I've lived, matches some of my old life. The fact that my parents' names are the same and that my mother passed away when I was five. But here it says my father was charged and jailed for abuse when I was eight. When I looked up the reports, the abuse that was claimed, matched my own upbringing. This only confused me as to why someone would think that this was abuse. He was strict, and I was made to toe the line.
It also said that when my father passed away on my twelfth birthday, I ran away and was not heard from after that. There was nothing about my family money or about any of the nannies that cared for me.
This more than anything I read saddened me. I'm not really sure why, because my father did pass in front of me on my twelfth birthday. Much like the way it had; only Ms. Esme came back into my life two days later. Apparently, my father had a Will that stated on the event of his death she was to become my full-time caretaker until I reached the age of eighteen. My life with Ms. Esme was very hard. She came to me all smiles, but she had broken her promise to me and I never forgave her for that.
I close my eyes feeling the pain again. My stomach grumbles loudly and as people pass by me, they look at me with so much hate, and disgust that it makes me wish that I was invisible. I want to scream at them that this wasn't my fault, and certainly not my doing. But they're already gone before I can get the words out.
The pain increases in my empty gut and I slide down a wall dropping my head into my arms. I hate the fact that I still have someone else's stinking clothes on. Even worse, the clothes are now stinking even more. I haven't bathed in five days, never mind slept or ate.
'You are a Cullen, we do not show weakness! We are not weak men. We work, and we get the job done right the first time. You, boy, are being a pussy. Get on with it, you are a man, this is what we do!' My father's voice says on repeat in my head.
"Sir," I hear come from above me.
I open my eyes seeing the maid, Bella, again.
"What do you want? Have you come to make sure you ruined my life?" I ask letting some of my pain come out in anger.
"W … what ..." she stutters and stops.
I look at her seeing she looks confused. She looks down at me as if she's in pain.
"I am sorry for whatever happened to you, for whatever you think I've done, I am sorry."
I grunt and roll my eyes.
"I got you this."
I look to her hand seeing that she's holding out some food and water.
I sneer up at her. "You really think this is going to help me?" I yell at her.
I watch as she drops her hand to her side. "I'm sorry for interrupting you," she says softly and then walks away from me. I watch her go up to another homeless person. She sits and talks to them before handing them the food and water.
I watch her do the same with many of the other homeless people that are around. Each time, she doesn't look at them with the hate that others, and even I have. Instead, she looks at them with love, care, and maybe a bit of sympathy.
'Tell her you're sorry, and beg if you have to, for some food,' says a weak voice inside my head, but before I can stand up, my father's voice comes again.
'What? No, you are a Cullen! We do not beg or ask for anything. Do not show me up, boy!'
The two voices seem to fight inside of my aching head. My father wins, not that it really matters as Bella is already gone. I let out a long sigh and stand up slowly and start to walk around again in attempt to take my mind off of my hunger. I jump and move as a black car pulls up in front of me. I watch and smile as Eric steps out.
"Eric," I say strangely pleased to see him.
I watch him frown at me. "My name is Emmett," he says. This time I frown.
"Are you sure?" I ask.
He grins at me. "Well, if it's not my dad's name, he sure has a lot of explaining to do." He keeps smiling at me and then shakes his head. "Sorry, Edward, but Aro would like a word with you," he says, stepping back into what would be his normal work mindset.
He opens the door and I peek in to see Aro is there smiling at me. "Edward, my boy, come on, get in and sit," he says patting the seat.
I let out a sigh knowing I have nothing to lose, so I slide in and sit next to him.
"How are you getting on? I have been worrying about you."
I let out a chuckle and shake my head. "This is all your doing. If you're really worried then, change it back, make everything the way it was."
Aro sighs. "Tell me," he says.
I roll my eyes at him, but tell him everything which he already knows, I'm sure.
"If what you say is true, then maybe you're going through this to see something or someone. Stop fighting it and start to look, because your life before this didn't seem like a life, more like a long, painful death," Aro says.
Again I just chuckle. "That's not for you to decide. I just wish everything was back the way it was," I say in a small voice.
"Edward, you should be careful of what you wish for, because it may come true."
I look at him and shake my head. Has he not been listening to me? "Yes, that's exactly what I want."
Aro shakes his head. "Maybe right now, but who knows if you'll still want that in a week's time? My advice is to open your eyes and your heart."
I sigh again knowing he's not going to give up the whole pretense of the situation. I move to get out of the car, but Aro pulls me back.
"The girl, Bella, I can swear she has nothing to do with what you think has happened. She is a sweet, young girl, who has a very hard life. You, my boy, could learn a lot from her. She's one of the few that has nothing but her mom, brother, and a dog. Two very important people and a dog, all of which she would lay her life down for. But even though she has nothing, she'll always be the first one to help someone who needs help."
Aro looks at me and his eyes are so clear that everything in my gut tells me he's speaking the truth. I nod at him and get out of the car. I sigh again and just walk away. There seems to be nothing else to do. "Eddie," I hear from behind me and I turn and frown when I see Jasper again.
"What?" I ask with a huff, turning back the direction I was heading. What is wrong with this guy; I mean, why the hell is he always so happy?
"I just wanted to tell you not to go down the road that you're heading toward."
I turn and look at him. "Really? You're going to stand here and give me advice?" I ask loudly.
Jasper looks at me as if I am nuts, yet again. "No, but that road," he says pointing behind me, "is not a good area. Personally, I don't want to see you hurt, or more to the point dead, if you walk down it."
I look toward the direction I had been going. "Seems like a stellar solution and one hell of a grand idea to me," I say loudly not really meaning to.
"Your life is really that bad? I know the street is not the best of places, but life could be worse."
I look at him shaking my head. "This compared to what I've had? Yes, death is much better than this. I have nothing. I am nothing here," I say as I start to walk back the way I came.
I frown when Jasper starts to laugh. "Then why are you living on the street?"
I rub my face getting frustrated. "I have no idea. Someone took everything away from me; this is not my life. I like my life," I say lowly.
"Are you sure? You don't sound as if you liked it as much as what you say."
"My life was great, really good," I say. This time I don't even believe me, but thankfully Jasper just nods.
"I had a wife, Maria, and a house all paid for, and a beautiful baby on the way. Then I got sent off to war. First, I missed the birth of my daughter Sky. I missed all the important things—first word, step, tooth, smile—all of it. I got to see her the odd time during Skype calls or when I was on leave, but it really wasn't enough.
"I decided to leave the military when she turned one. I had three months left, when we were attacked while on patrol. They killed some, but I was one of the men taken as a prisoner. I was held for six months before we were let go. I returned home, but everything made me edgy.
"I was angry and at times I'd blow up at Maria. More than once, I scared her and Sky. After a year I found out I had PTSD, but Maria had already left me. It was then that I found out that my lovely wife had been having an affair, and the daughter I loved and still love, was not even mine. It was just too much. I lost my house, my job, everything.
"That was two years ago. My life is not better. I miss Sky very much, but now I can see my life for what it was. My marriage was not as good as what I thought, which was as much my fault as it was Maria's. Sometimes we need room and distance to get a clear view on what our life is really like."
Jasper keeps his face forward the whole time he speaks, but it's clear he stills loves the little girl he thought was his child. I start to feel guilty again, knowing that he had been through so much before he found himself here on the streets.
"Don't feel guilty or sorry for me. We all have our own stories. No one chooses the street, it's just a fact of life—hard life. We can easily find ourselves here, but it's so much harder to get away from this life once you're here," Jasper says before tapping my arm lightly.
"Come on, we need to get to the shelter before there is no space left."
I keep my head down, but give him a little nod to say that I heard him. We arrive and I am stunned to see a huge line of people, both male and female standing waiting.
"I thought this was men only, I wasn't aware women were here, too?" I say out loud, not to anyone in particular.
"It is – men go in to building A, women, building B. This place is really going to be missed. We're all praying that we or they, I should say, find the funding to keep this place going," a lady says.
It's been four days and I have been meeting up with Jasper before going to the shelter every night. At the shelter I've met a lot of people, most all have a different story about what led them here. I was shocked and saddened to see so many young kids that have run away from home. Some because life at home was dangerous, others because they had falling outs with their parents and didn't know how to go home or what to tell the right people to get help.
Other things have shocked me. I'm so shocked by how people could use and abuse these people. People steal from the homeless all the time—they take the little they have from them. The looks these people get and I get on a daily basis, now has me walking with my head down, something I never used to do. I have to look down, because I can no longer stand the looks people who don't know anything about me send my way.
It was my second night at the shelter that I ran into someone I knew in line, Rosalie King. I couldn't work out why she was here. Royce, Rosalie's husband, well ex-husband, told everyone that she's living in Europe. It was after staring at her for half an hour that I approached her. I asked her if she was who I thought she was, and the hurt and anger was clear on her face. I look around in shock holding my cheek that she slapped before storming off. Jasper then told me that no one calls her Rosalie, they all call her Rose.
Yesterday, I approached her again to say that I was sorry. I told her to call Royce, that I was sure he'd help her. I sat shocked as she told me that Royce beat her on a daily basis, breaking her bones. That he had broken nearly all of her bones at some point or another. She told me of how he raped her and allowed his father to also have his way with her.
She said how she tried to put money away so she could leave, but Royce found out. His punishment was to have ten men rape and beat her. He then had her dumped on the side of the road, naked and in a garbage bag. It was clear from her words spoken that every word she said was true. It only took one minute before I was puking up the meager contents of my stomach.
Rose's story has been playing in my mind, and I keep thinking about how well I really knew the people I've been doing business with. I even wonder if I did know all of this, if it would've stopped me from doing business with them. I turn going on to another street.
"Please, I need that, too ..."
I look up seeing two men surrounding what I think is a young girl. This is something that I don't want to be involved in. I turn around to start to go back the way I just came.
"You must have more cash than the measly two hundred bucks," one of the guys yells.
Without meaning to, my head turns looking back and the guys move a little, and I stop walking seeing that the girl is Bella.
"Maybe we can use her, I'm sure we can find some guy that would pay to fuck her?" the other guy says.
'Help her, you stupid ass,' that small voice has come back and is saying the same thing over and over getting louder each time.
I watch as she starts to try to get around them, but they push her. Before I know what's happening I have hit the man that was talking and have one of his friends by his collar.
"Look man, I just need her money, we'll just take her bag," he stutters out. I stare him down and throw him toward his friend. They look at me then each other before making a grab for Bella's bag. I quickly grab it away from them and they scamper away. I look around and then to the ground to see Bella's unconscious body lying there.
I look her over and see that she is really unharmed, apart from a knock to her head. I collect her belongings and look at her home address. I see that it's about a twenty minute walk from here. I pick her up and start to walk that way.
"Hmm," I hear and I look down at Bella.
She moans as she comes to. Seeing a bench I place her on it. I move her hair out of her face and feel my breath catch as I look down at her angel face. Her eyes slowly open and she looks at me with the same amount of fear that was on her face when the two guys were attacking her.
"Bella, it's Edward Cullen, we've met before, remember, at my company—well Aro's now."
I swallow when the fear on her face increases. It confuses me as to why she'd be afraid of me. As the thought passes in my mind, it is followed quickly by me gripping her harshly like I did on that day.
"I am sorry that I hurt you that day, I am going through something and well—fuck that wasn't a reason to take it out on you. Bella, I won't hurt you like that again," I say, and swallow once more as I am overcome with how much I really want to mean that.
Bella keeps looking at me as she slowly sits up. "You ... you have my bag," she says and I nod handing it to her.
"I'm sorry that I was going to walk away."
Bella's eyes meet mine and she frowns, and I feel ashamed of my first thoughts.
"It's okay; most people would do the same thing or at least have the same thought. I'm not sure what made you help me, but thank you."
I feel my heart beat faster when she thanks me, something that I don't often hear or say for that matter.
"Do you think you can walk?" I ask after a few minutes of silence.
Bella nods and I help her up. "Would you mind if I walk along with you?" I ask unsure of what I am doing.
Bella nods and I walk close to her. "How are you feeling?" Bella asks and I frown at her.
"You seemed upset and a little confused when we met last week, and even more so a few days ago at the beach," she says when she reads the confusion on my face.
"It's all a little hard to explain, and I am not even sure if I can," I say knowing that everyone I have told looks at me as if I belong in the nut house.
"If you need someone to talk to, then I am always happy to lend an ear."
I tilt my head at her and then nod.
"This is me," Bella says pointing at a rundown apartment building. I nod and start to walk away.
"Edward?" Bella yells and I turn to see her walking up to me.
"Where are you spending the night, the shelter is closed now."
The worry in her voice catches me off guard. I don't get why she would care so much about someone she doesn't know, and the person who has spoken rudely to her and even hurt her.
"I will find somewhere, I'm sure."
Bella bites her lip still looking at me with worry.
"Please don't worry yourself over me. I'm looking for a job, and I have many skills, so I'll be able to find something soon and then I'll get a house."
Bella shakes her head. "My mom's going to kill me," she says out loud looking at her building. "You can stay with my family and me, until you get back on your feet."
I look at her in shock.
"It's not the nicest of places, but it's warm and there's even some food. Please, even if just for tonight, please," Bella says as I look at her with my mouth open.
My father's voice is screaming at me to walk away, 'Cullen men do not need help from the third-class citizens.' But, then I hear a second voice and I realize it's my own voice from when I was younger. It tells me that he wants to go and stay with Bella. Before my father can win, I nod at her and follow her inside of the building.
As we walk in the building, I notice right away the lack of upkeep the building has. There are many fixable problems and I'm not even all the way in yet. I keep looking around and taking notice of everything. I have no idea why someone would let their building get like this. I stop when we reach the fifth floor and we are put into complete darkness.
"Edward, are you okay?" Bella asks. I peek down the stairs seeing that the other lights can be seen, so I know it's not a blackout. I jump a little when a soft hand touches my arm and runs down to my hand leaving a tingling feeling behind.
"Five, six, and seven stairwell lights are out. We'll be in the light again, when we reach eight," Bella says softly. She keeps a hold of my hand as she pulls on me to start walking.
"What floor is your apartment on?" I ask.
"The tenth," Bella says right away.
I frown not that she can see it. I wonder why she doesn't use the elevator to go up to the tenth floor.
"I would, but it needs to be fixed again," Bella says and I nod realizing I must have spoken out loud.
"Why haven't you put in a complaint with your landlord?" I ask as I realize there are more issues with this building than I thought.
I frown when Bella chuckles. "This is not the best of areas, and between the rent and month-to-month lease, it means the landlord doesn't give a rat's ass. If I complain, my family will end up homeless."
I let out a sigh knowing she's right. We carry on going up the stairs and then walk around the hallway to her apartment. I watch as she takes out her keys and gives the door a few hits with her hip to open it. When the door opens, I look around trying to take everything in. The apartment is warm and has a homey feel to it.
"Make yourself at home. I need to look in on my mom," Bella says and then walks away, to what I assume is her mom's room.
I sit down on what looks like the only comfortable seat in the living room. I look around and see that the living room has one sofa, a chair, a small dining table with four wood chairs, and a small cabinet with a little television and DVD player on it. There are some family pictures on the walls, but there isn't much else here. I jump a little when something wet touches my hand. When I turn and look, I see the dog sitting there looking up at me.
"Hey, Charlie or is it John?" I say trying hard to remember the name of the dog.
"It's Charlie," a voice says.
I smile at the boy and nod.
"So you're John then?" I ask. The boy smiles but shakes his head.
"Almost, I'm Joshua."
I chuckle and nod at him. "I will try to remember that," I say as Charlie pushes his head under my hand.
"He wants you to pet him," Joshua says.
I start to pet Charlie and smile down at him, seeing that he looks as if he is enjoying it as much as I am.
"I am making hot milk for myself, would you like some?" I look up at him frown again. "It's okay I am allowed, I am eight now," he says with a big smile.
"That's good, but no thank you," I reply and Joshua nods and walks away. When he enters the door at the end of the living room, he calls for Charlie who runs after him.
"Sorry for taking so long," Bella says before clearing her throat.
"Hey! I have a towel here and some old clothes of my dad's; if you put them on, I can give your stuff a wash, if you'd like, that is."
I look down to her hands seeing the clean clothes along with a towel and what appears to be a grooming kit, too.
"Your dad won't mind?" I ask trying to hold myself in the seat.
"Oh, no, he passed away five years ago. We never got rid of the last of his clothes. I asked Mom and Joshua if they mind you using them they and said they would rather that than smell you," Bella chuckles little at the end.
I smile weakly at her, it's clear that she got upset when talking about her dad. It may have been five years ago, but I get the feeling it's still raw.
"If you're all sure, then please, and thank you. I am really smelly," I say taking the stuff from her.
She shows me the way to the only bathroom in the apartment. She shows me the different things and then leaves me be.
I look in the mirror see that I look dirty and pale. I let out a breath and run my bath as I shave. Once I am done I get in the warm water. It's not as comfortable as the one I am used to, but after going so long without one, I'm not complaining.
I get dried and put on the new-to-me, clean clothes. I place the other ones in the basket Bella showed me earlier. I walk back into the living room finding no one, but I hear voices in the other room.
"How long do you think he will stay?" Joshua asks.
"I'm not sure, are you worried about him?" Bella asks as I get to the door. I stand and watch them working together.
"No, he seems highly strong and sad, but he's a good person. I think he may've lost his way," Joshua says sounding a lot older.
Bella chuckles. "Yeah, I agree, and I'm sure you can help him find his way again." Joshua nods and hugs Bella.
"Can I put the icing on the cookies?" Bella nods and brings out what I think are freshly made cookies.
"Edward, are you coming in for some cookies? Bella makes the best ones ever, but they taste better with some warm milk. Are you sure you don't want some?" Joshua asks looking at me while he keeps putting icing on the cookies in front of him.
"I am not sure, I've never had warm milk, and it's been a long time since I've had some cookies," I say. It's the truth, I never eat junk or what Tanya calls junk food. I notice then that Joshua's jaw has dropped in shock.
"What? But how can you have never had warm milk?"
I shrug and Bella lightly elbows him shaking her head at him.
"Joshua, don't be rude, some people can't drink milk," Bella says giving me an apologetic look.
I shake my head. "My father didn't like me to drink things like that. But I would love to try it," I say moving toward them.
I help them carry the things to the table in the living room and we all sit at it. I pick up one of the cookies and take a bite. It's been a long time since I last ate and I'm too hungry to care what I am eating. I let out a few hums as I quickly eat the cookie. Once I am done, I stare at the milk a little unsure about what it'll taste like. I take a breath and drink some of the warm liquid. I find it to be surprisingly nice.
"Now dip a cookie in and try it that way," Joshua says.
I look at him then to Bella to make sure that it's okay to have another cookie. She nods at me, and I pick one up dipping it before I take a bite. It tastes so good like that, and I let out a loud moan.
"This is the best thing I've ever tasted," I say eating the cookie in a few quick bites.
I look up when I hear Joshua chuckling. I look to see that Bella seems to be holding her laugh back.
"I'm going to go and heat up some proper food for you to eat," Bella says, standing up and walking out quickly.
I shake my head when I hear her let out a loud laugh in the kitchen.
"I know what you mean, Edward, Bella's a great cook."
I nod at Joshua and he hands me another cookie. I'm only too happy to take it and dip it in my warm milk and eat.
Bella comes back with a plate with flat ribbons of pasta, chicken, and cheese sauce over it. I only look at for a few seconds before I start to dig in and eat it.
"This is really good," I say with my mouth full. I know that it's rude and I can see my father's disapproving eyes in my mind. But, I am far too hungry and this food is too good for me to care.
"Bella makes the tagliatelle pasta herself; I think it's better than the stuff from the store," Joshua says and I look up to see a blush on her face. I smile at Joshua as I remember that most of my nannies would call me their little bud.
"Well, little bud, I will have to agree with you," I say and the smile on Joshua's face says that I made the right choice for once.
"Okay, Joshua, it's bedtime and you have school tomorrow," Bella says and Joshua frowns.
"I hate school, can't I stay home instead?" Joshua asks and Bella shakes her head at him.
"No, you need to stay in school." Joshua rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.
"You dropped out, why can't I?" Bella sighs and looks as if she is embarrassed by what Joshua just said.
"I didn't have a choice, but you do. And, for a long as I can breathe, you will finish school, go on to college, and be something. Let's go now, say goodnight to Edward."
"Night, Edward," Joshua huffs and walks away.
"I'll be right back, I just want to make sure he brushes his teeth and read him a story."
I watch her walk out then start to eat my dinner again. The whole time I can't seem to get what Joshua and Bella said out of my mind. I wonder what could've made Bella drop out. It's only a few minutes when she comes back to the table looking more upset.
"He doesn't want me to read to him, so I am going to take Charlie out to do his business."
My hand shoots out touches hers and I am again overcome by the tingling feeling that shoots through my body.
"What is that?" I ask still looking at our joined hands.
"Eh, I'm not sure, it could be static," Bella says slowly.
"May I come with you?" I ask looking up in her eyes, as she looks down at me. She nods and smiles, but the sadness is clearly there. I decide that I don't like her looking like this. But when I try to think of a time when I saw her happy, it does not come to my mind.
"You can come if you like," Bella says softy as she shakes her head looking away from me. Bella hands me a jacket before getting Charlie's lead. She opens the door and walks out with me a little behind her. We make our way down all the flights of stairs and out onto the sidewalk.
"How long have you lived here?" I ask as we walk down the still busy street.
"We have always lived here in Los Angeles. But we moved into the apartment building about five years ago, after Charlie died."
I look at her then to the dog then back to her. "Huh?" I say as I scratch my head. I really can't believe that I've only been out of the business world a few days and I'm already finding intelligent speech hard.
"Charlie, my dad," she says.
I hum in agreement at her as she carries on talking.
"The dog sort of got named after him. We had only just gotten this Charlie, when my father passed away. We were trying to come up with a name for him, but that got put on hold when Charlie died suddenly. It was few weeks later we knew we needed to give the dog a name. As we went through all of the names we could think of, he didn't seem to like any of them. Then someone said 'Charlie' and he was all over them." Bella laughs a little at the end as she shakes her head. So that's how Charlie, the dog, got his name."
I nod at her as she turns her head a little away from me. I watch her intently. I see her slyly reach up and wipe what I now know is a tear off her cheek. I feel a pull in my whole body, more so in my arm as it moves closer to her. I quickly pull my arm back, look down and place my hand in my pocket as I frown. I really can't remember the last time I had the desire to touch another person, especially when the only reason was to bring them some comfort.
"Are you okay?" I look at Bella and see that she's looking at me with so much worry etched across her face. I look deep in her eyes and see that she still looks like the Angel I thought she was pretending to be.
"Edward?" Bella says softly, her hand slowly comes up as her eyes stay on mine. She stops her hand from moving a fraction of a second before it would've come to rest on my arm. "I don't know what happened to you …" she says before finally resting her hand on my arm. "I more than likely won't be able to give you any great life changing answers, but if you want to talk, I'm here."
I listen to her talk as I look at her hand that's now rubbing my arm. Instead of feeling like I need to move or have her remove her hand, I want more. I find that I hate the fact that I have all these layers of clothes on. I really want to feel her touch on my skin.
"I will bear that in mind," I say as my eyes go back to hers.
She smiles at me then turns her attention back to looking after Charlie. "I'll get his mess picked up and we can head back home."
I smile and watch her clean up after Charlie. We walk home side by side, not talking to each other, but it's a comfortable silence.
We get back into the apartment and Charlie goes and lies down. "I'll show you where you can sleep," Bella says walking a little in front. She walks into a room and I see a standard double bed and a small wardrobe and drawer set.
"The last two drawers have your clothes in them, and there's also some in the wardrobe," Bella says I and tilt my head.
"It's my dad's clothes, but you can have them."
I swallow and bob my head slightly still feeling her emotions.
"I have to leave to go to work early tomorrow, if you're not awake before I go, I will leave you breakfast in the oven. My mom will be here all day if you need anything." I motion my understanding with my head, and she gives me a little wave and walks out.
I open the last two drawers and see that there are unopened boxers, socks and cotton pajamas. Then there are loads of t-shirts, shirts and jeans. I walk to the wardrobe see that there are some dressier clothes: a suit, two or three pairs of slacks, a few button downs, some footwear as well as jackets.
As I glance to the other side, I see that there are some of Bella's maid uniforms and dresses. I close the door. I change putting on some pajama bottoms and an undershirt. I lie in the bed and find it's much more comfortable than the park bench. It's even better than the cot that I had at the shelter, but I still miss my bed so much.
"Argh! Freaking shit," I hear Bella scream.
I jump up and bolt out of the room when I hear her yelling from the bathroom. I open the door as I go to ask if she is okay, but no words come out as I stare at Bella's naked body. I am speechless as I watch the water running down her body. I let out a shaky breath, even the uncomfortableness of my hard on is not enough to bring me out of my shocked, lust-filled haze.
My eyes go up her body again and to her face. I see that she is looking at me holding her head with her hand. I tilt my head seeing blood mix in with that water running down, it's finally enough to make me move.
"Are you okay, where's the blood coming from?" I ask taking her hand and seeing that it's fine.
"I must have cut my head when I fell," Bella says and I start to move her hair looking at her scalp. I suck in my breath when I see the nasty cut. I completely forgot about that fact that she banged her head, when she almost got mugged.
"I think the shampoo made it open up and bleed heavier," Bella carries on talking.
I shake and shrug my head accordingly as I mentally beat myself up for lack of common sense and the ability to use it.
"Bella, what's ... what in the name of God is going on?"
I freeze and look around to see a woman looking quite agitated between Bella and me.
I look back at Bella remembering that she's naked and was having a shower.
"I ... you ... see ..." I stutter out.
"Mom, nothing's going on; he heard me yell and came in. My head is bleeding he's just checking it over," Bella says as she wraps a towel around herself.
"Well, Edward," Bella's mom's says as she looks at me, "why don't we step out and let her get dressed."
I silently agree and quickly walk out. I enter the living room and realize that Bella's mom is not with me. I look back down the hall to the bathroom and see that she's taking small steps and seems to be in pain. I walk back over to her. "Can I help?" I ask unsure of what to do.
She sighs and looks at me. "Can you help me back into my room?" I nod giving her my answer along with offering her my arm to lean on.
"I am sorry that your home burned down. Bella says you've lost everything."
I swallow unsure of what to say, it's clear that Bella made up a lie about the reason I was homeless.
"She says that you are just friends that she met when you both volunteered at the shelter."
Again, I nod at her unsure what to say. In a strange way I find myself both comforted and guilty that Bella has made me sound better than what I have been to her anyway.
"It's good of you to help, and you look like a kid-man. I mean, you're a man, I'm guessing late twenties?"
I again nod, which seems to be the only way I'm able to give Bella's mom her answers.
Bella's mom slightly arches her brow and clears her throat.
"I'm sorry, you're correct, I'm twenty eight," I say finding my voice.
"Bella's only eighteen."
I frown when her words take me aback. I knew Bella was young, just not that young.
"She's had to give up so much because of all that's happened. I don't want to see her hurt, and I really don't care how big or strong you are—or how much weaker I am—I will find a way to protect my child if you give me reason."
I give her yet another silent agreement, but this is different, this is an 'I hear you loud and clear' nod. I understand and respect her for what she just said. "All I can do is promise that I will try not to hurt her."
Bella's mom frowns a little at me.
"I mean, I'm realizing and finding out that I'm not a very social person. I could be more tactful in the words that I use when speaking to someone. I will not physically harm her in any way, but I cannot make that promise with my spoken words. Old habits die hard and all of that."
Bella's mom doesn't say anything but gets back into her bed.
"I'm really sorry, but what is your name?" I ask realizing that I still don't know it.
She chuckles and smiles at me. "I'm Renee."
I give her a smile back. "Okay, Renee, is there anything you are in need of right now?"
She looks at me then motions her head toward the cabinet behind me. "Can you pass me my laptop?"
I turnaround and move to where it is sitting, taking a quick look around the room. I see there are a bunch of books, a television and a few little knick knacks, other than that, it's pretty bare. From what I can see, it looks as if Renee spends most of her time in here, though.
"Goodnight, Renee," I say as I walk out of the door closing behind me. As I make it down the hall, I see Bella coming out of the bathroom.
"Come into the living room so I can take a look at your head," I tell her and she agrees. I watch her as she moves to the shelf and picks up a small first aid kit.
I look through her hair again seeing the small cut and using some wipes I begin to clean it. She flinches a little when I first make contact. "Sorry," I say but keep going, "I'm also sorry for walking into the bathroom on you. It's just. . . I heard you scream." I stop when Bella chuckles a little.
"It's all right; I know you were perving on me."
I swallow knowing that I may not have intended to do so, but that's more or less what happened. And I am still shocked that I got that reaction from seeing Bella naked. Not that she doesn't have a nice body, because she does, it's just … I've never had that reaction before from seeing someone's naked body.
I lean in close to Bella to make sure the cut is clean. I let out a breath as my body yet again seems to be reacting in unfamiliar ways to this sweet, caring girl. I close my eyes and attempt to flick off the switch on my emotions before I lose what little control I have. I clear my throat moving away from her.
"It's all clean," I say as I take another step away. "I am going to turn in now, if that's all right?"
Bella gives me one of her a smiles and motions yes with her head. "Good night, Edward, thank you."
I can't seem to stop myself smiling back at her. "Good night, Bella," I say softy looking to the ground. I'm starting to think this girl must be an angel or a succubus to have me so close to coming undone.
I lay in bed falling asleep. I shouldn't really be surprised that my dreams seem to all have Bella in them in some way or another, but I am. Never in my life has someone I've just met—even though I've known of them for a year—take up the thoughts in my head like Bella seems to be doing.
I wake hearing soft talking. I make my way to where it's coming from.
"Joshua, what do you want for lunch?" Renee asks.
"Can I have P,B and J, again?" I look to see Joshua looking happily at Renee who's rolling her eyes as she starts to make his request.
"Breakfast is up."
My eyes go right to Bella as soon as I hear her voice. My eyes scan her up and down, seeing that she's in her maid uniform, with her hair in a bun. I watch her soft movements as she walks around the room. I see her as she smiles at her mom and brother. Joshua says something to her which I don't hear, and her face lights up as she chuckles and ruffles his hair. She moves his hair back into order and places a kiss on his head.
I look at Renee who's still making up Joshua's lunch. I tilt my head trying to work out how she knew I was standing here.
"Morning," I say as I walk in. My eyes seem to wander back to Bella who's smiling at me, and sets a plate down for me. "This looks great, thank you."
Bella jerks her head a little in an agreeing manner before turning back to Joshua. "I need to go, Joshua; you've got ten minutes to get out there for the bus."
Joshua rolls his eyes and waves Bella off.
"See you when I get home, Mom," Bella says to Renee as she hugs her.
"Bye, Edward," Bella says as she puts on her jacket and walks out. My eyes stay on Bella even after she walks out of the door, my eyes stay there.
"Mommy," Joshua says, I look at Joshua as he sounds so much younger than he has been sounding.
"Yes," Renee says, but there is something behind that voice that seems to be triggering a memory of mine. I shake it off as it makes me feel strange.
"I don't feel so good."
"You don't, oh my poor baby?"
I look between Renee and Joshua as they talk.
"You feel cool, but maybe I'm warm," Renee says as she touches Joshua's head. "I will see how warm you are, open," Renee says putting a thermometer in Joshua's mouth.
"I feel sick," he says and Renee turns around to get a bowl. Joshua takes the thermometer from his mouth and dips it into her warm milk. He gives me the shush sign and just as Renee turns around he puts it back in his mouth.
"Wow, 104.4, hmm," Renee says as Joshua gives what I think he tries to pass off as an I'm-sick face. "Joshua, at least we know your milk is good and warm," Renee says nudging Joshua. "You really didn't think I'd fall for that, did you? Try again some other time, but you've got to be better than this." Joshua frowns and then looks at Renee who's chuckling and shaking her head.
"No dice, off to school now, mister."
Joshua pouts at her and she points to the door handing him his lunch.
"Life's so unfair," Joshua says as he picks up his bag and jacket before walking out of the door. Renee moves and stands at the window. I move next to her in time to see Joshua walk out and go across the street and wait. Thankfully, it doesn't take too long for the school bus to arrive.
"So, Edward, what are your plans for today?"
I look at Renee and shrug. "I need to get a job, so I'm going to go and find one."
Renee shakes her head at me. "First, you're going to need a résumé."
I sigh and show my agreement with a nod.
"Come on, let's get you set up." Renee sits down at the table a little out of breath. "Could you go in and bring me my laptop and the small black purse that's sitting with it, please?"
I give her a smile and walk into her room picking them up. I bring them back to her and I sit down. I start answering Renee's questions as she fires them off, while typing away on her laptop.
"What do you think?" she asks moving the laptop to me. I read over the résumé that Renee just finished, seeing that she really did a great job. I know for a fact I would want to interview someone with this résumé.
"This is great, thank you."
Renee motions with her head. "Take this, and this," Renee says handing me five dollars and the USB drive. "Go to the shelter, and they should print a load off for you, for two dollars. They may know if someone is hiring and they also have computers, so you can use them to get internet access."
I smile moving my head affirmably, already knowing that they have internet and computers to use. This is where I went and got all of the information about my family.
"I will pay you back," I say.
Renee waves her hand at me. "It's only five dollars, Edward; it's not a bar of gold. It's fine really; here are the keys to get back in. I think I am going to lie down for a while."
"Do you need anything while I'm out?" Renee shakes her head at me.
I go in and get cleaned up and then move back into the room I had slept in and put on some of Bella's father's clothing. I knock on Renee's door softly and hear her say, "Come in."
"I'll be back soon," I say to Renee and she smiles at me, but I can see that she's in pain. "I'll take Charlie with me if that's okay?"
"Yes, thank you, Edward, he'll love being out."
I grip my hair. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do before I leave?"
She again shakes her head at me. I call Charlie as I pick up his leash and walk out. Getting outside, I walk quickly to the shelter. The shelter has a backyard that I have seen others use to house their dogs when they're here. I make sure Charlie's all right before heading to the computer room. When I get inside, I'm glad to see that there is an available computer. I sign in and get to work. I spend the next few hours making myself useful. I set up a new email address, and load my new résumé. I log into different websites and send out résumés left and right. Once I'm done, I print out one hundred copies. I pay for the copies, collect them and Charlie, and head back to the apartment.
I walk in and see that Renee's up and she's cleaning. "Afternoon," I say and she turns giving me a smile.
"Your lunch is on the table."
I swallow giving her a smile as I tilt my head. "You didn't need to do that," I say knowing that I'm actually really hungry.
She waves me off. "I'm just going for a bath?"
I give her a nod to say that I will be fine and she limps away. I sit in the kitchen eating my lunch. When I'm done, I get up and walk out of the kitchen. Suddenly, I stop and walk back into the kitchen. I look and see that my plate is just where I left it. I pick it up and look for the dishwasher. When I can't find it, I put the plate in the sink. I look around to see what I should use to wash it with. A lot of people would more than likely think I am stupid or whatever, but I've never washed a dish in my life. I've only ever did small amounts of cooking and that was with Esme before she left the first time.
Not sure what I am looking for, I run the plate under the hot water and rub it to make sure it is clean. I make a mental note to watch Bella, so I can learn how to do dishes.
I sit around for a while unsure of what to do with myself. I flick through the television channels, but can't find anything worth watching. It's only a little time before Renee moves back into the living room and heads for the window. I frown as I watch, but when the front door opens and Joshua walks in, I understand that she was seeing him off the bus.
"Hey," he says giving Renee a hug.
"I'll go and get your snack ready," she says walking slowly to the kitchen.
"Are you watching anything?" Joshua asks as he sits down on the floor. I shake my head handing him the remote, and he turns on a cartoon.
"Here you go, Josh, and you can watch one episode, but then homework," Renee says as she passes him a plate with cookies on it, and sets down a glass of milk.
"Here you are, Edward," she says handing me a plate, too. I take it from her and jump up as I see her going for one of the harder seats.
"Renee, here take this one," I say, she looks at me and goes to wave me off.
"Please," I say and move to help her into the seat.
"Thank you, Edward, dear."
I sit down next to Joshua on the floor and we eat our snack as we watch the odd cartoon.
"Why is there a pineapple at the bottom of the ocean?" I ask.
Joshua looks at me like I've grown a second head. "You've never seen SpongeBob Squarepants?"
I shake my head and his eyes pop open a little more.
"No way man," he yells.
I hear Renee chuckle, but I keep looking at Joshua.
"This show is the bomb," he says moving closer to me. "The pineapple is his home."
I wrinkle my brow trying to understand this odd animated show. "Well, why does he wear clothes?"
Joshua tilts his head at me. "You can't walk around naked!"
I watch it a bit more and Joshua tells me who each person is. I frown scratching my head at the squirrel, Sandy. "Why is she, Sandy, a squirrel living in a dome at the bottom of the sea?"
"Because all her friends are there," Joshua says in a matter-of-fact voice.
"Okay, last question I have is, if a pineapple is round in the inside, how does his living room have corners?"
Joshua stays quiet and I can see he's thinking really hard on how to answer my question.
"You can cut a square instead of a circle," he says smiling and shrugging his shoulders pleased with his answer.
I smile at him and then shake my head at his silliness.
"Okay, homework time, Joshua," Renee says with a chuckle.
I look at her seeing that she's smiling at us both.
"I have Math, Science, and English." Joshua moves to the table and starts to work right away. Renee bends down to pick up Joshua and my plates, but I take them from her.
"I can clean these and put them away," I say, and she nods at me.
"Mom, I'm stuck on my science work, can I wait for Bella to come home?" Joshua yells.
Renee says he can, but I move to the table. "I can help you if you'd like?"
Joshua looks at me. "Are you sure?"
I smile and move his stuff closer to me. "Yes, I can do this, little bud," I say and Joshua and I start to work away at his studies. It is clear that he's a smart young man, and we rattle through his pile of homework in no time.
"Mom, do you want me to take Charlie out?" Joshua asks and Renee frowns looking at the window seeing that it's dark.
"I can go with him," I say and Renee nods.
"Okay, I'll start getting dinner ready," she says a little out of breath. I wait until Joshua goes to get his jacket before talking.
"Renee, are you okay?" I ask worryingly about her.
"I am fine, dear."
I sigh knowing she's not going to tell me. "Well, if I can help you, let me know."
Joshua comes back and we move to walk out, but I look back at Renee who is clearly very worn out.
I motion to Joshua, I'll be ready in a minute and I follow her into the kitchen. I watch as she takes a tablet with some water.
"Are you sure there isn't anything you need me to do?" Renee shakes her head at me.
"No, I am fine."
I sigh and pinch the bridge of my nose; I really am out of my depth here. "Okay, just don't think you can't ask for help."
With that I walk out and meet up with Charlie and Joshua in the hallway. I'm amazed at how well Joshua handles the stairs without lights on.
"Hey, little Joshy, where's your sexy sister?" I frown and look at the man who is standing at a door smoking.
"She's working," Joshua says as he moves closer to me, which makes the man's eyes go to me.
"Who's this?" he asks pointing at me as he runs his eyes up and down me.
"My sister's boyfriend."
The man chuckles a little, locking his eyes with mine. "Is that so, geek boy; are you pretty little Bella's boyfriend?"
I give him a curt nod, not feeling comfortable about the way he said Bella's name.
"Hmm, well I think this has just become more fun. See you around, kid." I watch him walk into the building before looking at Joshua.
"Who's that?" I ask and he sighs.
"That's the building caretaker. He's been trying to get Bella to date him ever since we first moved in."
I frown even more because if that's true, he's been hitting on Bella since she was only thirteen.
"There's Bella," Joshua says before running down the road. I look and see that she's walking along the road.
"Why didn't you get the bus?" I ask when she reaches me.
She looks at me then to Joshua. "I like walking, it keeps me fit."
I narrow my eyes at her, I know when people are lying to me, and she's not being truthful right now.
"Really?" I ask sharply and she nods.
"No!" I hear from beside me and I look to Joshua. "We don't have enough money for her to get the bus all the time," he says before walking away.
I look at Bella from the corner of my eyes, seeing that her face has a new flush to it. I'm not sure if this is because of it being so chilly tonight, or for the fact she's embarrassed—I am not sure. I walk next to her without saying anything the whole way back to the apartment. As soon as we enter, both Bella and Joshua take off their shoes and jackets leaving them at the door. I follow their lead and take my own off.
"Want to watch SpongeBob with me again?" I look to Joshua who already has the television on.
"Sure, unless you need me to do something, Bella?"
Bella looks between Joshua and I shaking her head. "No, I'm fine. I'm just going to help mom with dinner," Bella says as she backs out of the living room and heads to the kitchen.
I sit down next to Joshua on the floor and he tells me more about the strange cartoon. When the odd sea creature, cartoon is over another strange cartoon starts about a yellow misfit family. All too soon Bella helps Renee to the small table before bringing in the dinner plates and calling us to the table.
I pick up my fork ready to tuck in, and let me say it smells divine. Before I can take a bite Renee speaks, stopping me in my tracks. "Joshua, it's your turn to say Grace."
"Dear Father in heaven, I would like to thank you for looking after my family and our friend. Thank you for the food we are about to eat. Am ... Oh, before I forget, could you make Mr. Banner late, or ill, well anything tomorrow so I don't have to do the stupid Math test?"
"Joshua," Renee says as Bella chuckles.
"Thank you, for bringing Edward into our lives, he's our new friend. Help us to help him to find his way, Amen."
I look around the table to see the three of them all smiling at me. My eyes go to Bella and she gives me a little wink before starting to eat her meal.
"How was school today?" Bella asks Joshua.
"It was all right, we're learning about Malcolm X."
Bella hums and gives him a smile.
"We practiced for the play today and that was funny. John laughed because Anna messed up her lines and was shaking. He laughed so much he fell of the stage. He was not happy that we all started to laugh at him. I told him that he probably felt exactly the way Anna did when he laughed at her. I don't think he's talking to me anymore."
Bella lets out a small sigh. "I'm sorry, Joshua."
"I'm not, he was being a bully."
Bella chuckles and shakes her head at what I'm sure is her brother's matter-of-fact tone. "What about you, Mom, did you get much done?"
"I got a little done. I will need you to print some stuff off for me and get it mailed."
Bella agrees and tilts her head at Renee who looks a little pale and tired. "What about you, Edward? How was your day and what did you do?"
I look at her and open my mouth and then close it. I don't think anyone has asked me about my day in a very long time. "It was okay? I sent some companies my résumé that your mom made for me.
"Mister Aro is looking to hire someone. I'm not sure what the job is, but I could pass him your résumé, if you'd like?"
I tilt my head as I see a small but noticeable blush appear on Bella's face. Is it strange that the blush suits her? "That would be great, Bella," I say with a smile. I chuckle a little as the blush darkens on her and I can't help but know I'm right about it suiting her.
The rest of the night goes by with us sitting in the living room chatting as we watch the Christmas shows on the television. All too soon Renee goes for a bath and Bella helps her to get to bed when she's done. She is quickly followed by Joshua heading off to bed, too. Soon, it is only Bella and me in the living room.
"Do you have a family? I mean, someone that you miss or someone close?"
I turn my head and look at her. "I'm not really sure how to answer that. Both my parents passed away, years ago."
Bella sits up straighter and looks at me sadly.
"My mom passed when I was really young, leaving my father and I." I scratch my head a little and take a deep breath. "We never did anything together, not that I recall anyway. I was always left with nannies and they changed every four months. When my father passed away, I was twelve. One of my past nannies, Esme, is who I went to stay with. We were close when she first worked with us, but I lost some trust and respect for her before having to live with her at age twelve."
I look over to Bella when she touches my hand. "What happened?"
I close my eyes and turn a little to face her more. "All of my nannies would just leave. They never said goodbye, so I never knew what I did to make them leave. It's strange because I was never close to any of them, so it never bothered me. I would never let them in, but it still hurt when they just left. When Esme first came, she promised me that she would never leave me. She said if she ever had to leave, she would make sure I knew how to get a hold of her. She also promised me that she would say goodbye. She made that promise, and I let her in. I actually loved her, but it was for nothing because just like the rest and my mom, she left me all alone. When she came back after my father died, she acted like nothing happened. I just couldn't let her get close to me again. I didn't want anyone to get that close to me again."
I close my eyes not sure why I told her about Esme.
"I loved her so much, she reminded me of my mom. She even called me 'mo fuaime,' which means my son. She said that she loved me, too. We were having a great day playing hide and seek. My father returned home early and asked to speak to her. Then she was gone. It hurt so bad, I just didn't want to do anything but find her. I tried to find her; I called all the numbers she gave me. They all were disconnected, and none of them worked anymore. I missed her so much. The next nanny I got was strict like my father and I would find myself without food at least once a week. As the days passed I found myself becoming angry at Esme. I was angry she just left. She knew what my life was like. She knew that I had no friends, no family and that my father was never around. But still she left."
I feel Bella wrap her arms around me. I hold my breath unsure of what I'm supposed to do in this situation.
"I'm so sorry, but, Edward, you have us now—if you want us—we'll be your family," Bella says into my chest with her arms still holding me tight.
My arms seem to have grown a mind of their own as they rise up and wrap themselves around Bella pulling her as close as they can.
"Thank you," I whisper in to Bella's ear. I finally unwrap myself from Bella and give her a smile. "I think I should turn in now."
Bella nods and I walk quickly to the room I'm sleeping in. It feels like it takes me a long time to fall asleep. When I do my dreams seem to be filled with me losing my new family, and most of the time it's through my own doing. I fear I will never be more than the cold, distant person I've always been.
The next day goes by like the one before, only I spend time with Jasper. Rose even joins us for a while. They both seem to be happy that I have somewhere to stay for the time being. I spend the daytime hours with them and they both warn me to not to fuck it up. I go home and help Joshua again with some homework. When I know Bella's due to be home soon, I walk out with Charlie and Joshua to meet her.
I am glad that I did this tonight, even more so when the creepy guy from last night was hanging around outside again.
"I may have some good news for you," Bella says as I help her wash up after supper.
"What's that?" I ask as I dry the dish Bella passes me.
"Mr. Aro, said that you can come and see him about a job tomorrow afternoon."
I smile at her. "Really?" I ask, and she nods. I put down the dish and pull Bella to me. "Thank you so much," I say as I hold her close to me. "This so weird, the last hug I had was the day that Esme left me when I was little. I don't remember hugs being or feeling this good." I feel Bella tighten her hold on me. "I am starting to think it's you, you're the difference. Before you, I never liked people touching me, or being close to me. It felt odd—wrong—but with you, I feel good. It's like I can't stop, but if I keep doing this, then I'll need your touch more and more."
I feel Bella's lips on my chest through the t-shirt. I feel my heart start to race.
"You can hug me whenever you like," Bella says as she lets me go. I look down at her still feeling the kiss on my chest, but now I am wondering what her lips would feel like on mine.
As she turns to the sink, on complete impulse, I pull on her arm and turn her back to face me. I hug her again, as she chuckles and I feel my insides light up. What the hell is this girl doing to me?
The next morning I get up early taking a bath before walking with Bella to work.
"Do you need any help? I could question you or something?" Bella asks.
I chuckle a little and shake my head. I have done thousands of interviews in my years, so I know the ins and outs of them. The first five seconds are the most important. Just by looking at someone I can tell if the person will hire me or not.
"I think I will be okay," I say and she smiles at me.
"There's something I would like to ask you, but it's kind of a personal question," Bella says biting her lip at the end.
I nod at her, saying she can ask.
"You said that you don't like touching or being touched, but what about girlfriends, and ... sex?"
I look down at Bella when she whispers the word sex and see that she's gotten really red.
"Breathe, Bella, it's been a few years from when I first learned CPR, and I am not sure if I remember all the steps of it."
Bella shakes her head a little. "I have only had the one girlfriend, and she was a lot like me. She was brought up in a boarding school, an all-girls school that was run by Nuns. Her parents never spent time with her. When they did, they always were on a call or too busy talking to others to see her. We met in college and sort of bonded over our lack of families. Sex was never a big thing for us. In the ten years we were friends—dating—I think we've had sex, maybe fifteen times."
Bella looks at me in shock. "Really?"
"Umm, yeah," I say and start to pull my hair. "It's been like seven months from the last time, just—"
Bella stops walking and just looks at me and I see there's some hurt in her eyes.
"Where is she? I mean are you still with her?"
I rub my face trying to think of a way to explain this to her, without going through everything. "She doesn't remember me, and now she's married—happily married, from what I gather."
Bella still looks hurt and sad—I really don't like her looking like this.
"It's okay, really, I did and do care for her, but we weren't in love with each other." I pull on my hair as I look at her. "We were both cut from the same cloth. We understood each other, gave each other the company that we needed as well as the space. She's really the only friend—family—I had."
"You've got me now," Bella says softly.
I pull her to me hugging her tightly. "I think you're the best friend I'll ever have—and as corny as it may sound—want."
Bella chuckles a little and we start to walk to the building. When we get there the security looks at me the whole time.
"Good morning, Bella." I turn and see Kate, my secretary—well was—walking toward us.
"Good morning, Alice," Bella says softly.
"And this must be Edward?" I tilt my head at Alice as she talks.
"Your name is Alice?" I ask in an odd sounding tone.
Kat ... Alice, looks at me grinning. "No, it's Mary Alice, but I really don't like to be called Mary, so I have everyone call me Alice."
I give her a nod and then follow her as she walks me and Bella to the elevator.
As the elevator goes up a few levels, more people get on making Bella stand closer to me. All too soon she is almost standing on me, but having her so close seems to be doing stuff to my body. I close my eyes and breathe in, but her scent hits me hard and my mind starts to wander.
I think of how nicely her body fits against mine. I can feel the heat from her and I wonder if she feels the twitch her closeness causes. I wish I could pull her to me and tilt her head back and start kissing her. I want to get lost in her hot, wet mouth ... I jump when I hear a loud ding.
"This is our floor," Alice says and looks to me when I fail to move.
"Bella works on the top floor, our interview is in Aro's office, which is on this floor."
I give a short nod and walk forward, but turn before the doors can close again. "See you later, Bella."
"Good luck and see you later," Bella says softly in reply. I watch the doors close and let out another breath.
"Oh, I just love, young love, and Bella's really a sweet girl. I was a little worried about the age gap, but it is so clear that you're in love with her."
I swallow as I look at Alice. In love with Bella? "What do you mean?"
"I mean you love her," she chuckles at me. "I may have just met you, but the way you look at her it's so clear that you are in love with her."
Could I be in love with Bella?
She knocks on the door then walks in, and I shake away my thoughts about what I do and don't feel for Bella to clear my head.
"Hello, young Edward, you are looking a lot better," Aro says as I walk in.
My interview takes well over an hour and the more we talk about different parts of the company. The more I am hoping to get a job in the line of what I did before. Not only will the money help me get back on my feet, but I could do something nice for Bella, Renee and Joshua.
"I have some good news for you, Edward; I have a job opening for you."
I smile and bite my lip. I shake my head and release my lip from my teeth, knowing that I seemed to have picked that up from Bella.
"It's to be the butler and driver."
I swallow as I look at him. Now, there's nothing wrong with those jobs, they're just not the jobs I want.
"Don't you have an office job available?" I ask and Aro just looks at me.
"Edward, you don't have any references or work experience for working in an office."
I shake my head at him. "You know that I do," I say angrily.
"I believe that you believe what you told me is true, but I have to hire people based on facts. Now say that you were still in your old life and I came to you, telling you what you told me—showing you this résumé—would you hire me?"
I sit back down knowing he's right, I wouldn't hire someone for a job without the proof of experience and education to back the position.
"I'll give you until the end of the week to take the job, but then I will offer it to someone else. So think hard about it, we all have to start somewhere."
I rub my face again and pinch the bridge of my nose.
"Why don't you go upstairs and have a look around. I will have the staff show you around and you could join Bella," I can't stop myself from instantly smiling, "for lunch?"
It's not until he said I could see her, that I realized that I'm missing her.
"Yes, please?" I say and walk to the door.
I go up the few levels and walk into what used to be my house. I walk around seeing the place has been completely done up for Christmas, something I've never done. I keep walking and stop when I hear giggling.
"You have flour in your hair," a young voice says between giggles.
"You do, too, Alec," says another young voice.
"I think we all do, so what do we do next, Bella?" I hold my breath when I hear Tanya's voice. I look into kitchen and see Bella is with Tanya and Tanya's two young kids, Alec and Jane, if I remember correctly.
"Next, we, and by we—I mean me the adult—puts them into the oven to cook." I watch as Bella bends over and puts the cookies in the oven. Again I feel myself get hard.
"We've got about a half hour before we can put icing and that on them, so you can go play until then?"
"We can wash up for you," Tanya says. I chuckle a little; I don't think I've ever seen Tanya doing manual labor.
"It's okay, really. I've got this and I need to make a start on lunch any way."
I look to Tanya when I feel her stare and see her smiling at me.
"Okay, well, call us after you've had lunch and don't worry, there's no hurry."
Bella looks at Tanya confused and then follows her stare and I watch as Bella's eyes light up when they land on me.
"Hi," I say walking to her.
"Hi." I watch as a dark blush fills Bella's face and neck.
"How did it go?"
I frown a little and Bella looks upset, so I move to her and hug her to me. As soon as she's in my arms, I feel like I can breathe more easily. Not that I noticed that I was finding it hard to breathe.
"I love having you in my arms," I say as the thought flies through my mind.
"Good, because I like being in them."
I kiss her head and enjoy the close contact and the scent of her. Again, I start to wonder what her lips will feel like. I feel empty when she pulls away from me.
"What would you like to eat?" I look at her tilting my head.
"Aro provides his staff with a meal when they are here. He already told me to make sure you had something, too."
I swallow feeling guilty again knowing that this is something the old me would've never allowed.
"I will have anything you make then."
Bella smiles and shakes her head and starts to work on lunch. I notice it looks as if she's making food for everyone.
"What can I do to help?" I ask as a timer goes off.
"You can take the cookies out of the oven," Bella says as she hands me the oven mitts.
I open the oven door taking the cookies out and place the trays on the counter. "What next, boss?" I say and Bella chuckles.
"Okay, start to cut up the salad."
Between Bella and me, we make the lunches for the maid and cleaning staff on the top floors.
"Oh, who is this?" An older woman asks as she walks in. Like most of the staff, I recognize her as being someone that I've seen from my past.
"Afternoon, Mary, this is my friend I was talking to you about, Edward."
Mary smiles at me and nods. "I hear there may be a chance that you'll be joining our little group?"
I have no idea what to say so I just bob my head at her. The rest of the afternoon goes by quickly. We are able to talk and get to know each other. Aro allows them forty minutes paid for lunch, which is better than the twenty minutes I used to give them. When they all head back to their jobs, I help Bella clean up.
Once the kitchen is cleaned, Alec and Jane come back and tell Bella that Tanya had to go to a meeting. I sit in the kitchen and watch the three of them working away, decorating cookies. All too soon my mind wanders and I have an image of what Bella and my kids would look like. Me, I'd be working all day at the office, before coming home for dinner. Coming home, early to see my family working together in the kitchen. I can even smell my wife, Bella, as I wrap my arms around her. 'I love you' she whispers as I kiss her. I start to feel a little choked up and I stand up and run out of the room.
"Edward?" I turn and see Bella running after me.
"What's wrong, are you okay?" I nod at her and can feel myself falling apart. That switch no longer works, not when I'm around this girl.
"I'm okay. I think I should head home and make sure Renee's okay."
Bella gives me a sad smile and I really fucking hate her looking sad like this. When she smiles, normally her whole face lights up which makes anyone looking at her smile, too. I lean in to her placing my forehead on to hers.
"I'm changing, and that's a good thing. It's just taking me a little off guard. I will see you tonight, sweetheart, don't work too hard." I kiss her head as my hand makes its way to her neck moves around to her hair.
Before I can move back Bella places a chaste kiss on my lips, but it feels as if someone has lit fireworks off inside of me.
"See you tonight," Bella says softly and walks away. I stand there watching her and then shake my head and walk back to her apartment building. When I get there Renee is in a heap on the floor.
"Oh my god, what happened?" I yell as I run to her.
"Don't worry yourself, I just fell," Renee chuckles a little, but I can hear the pain behind her words. I pick her up as I stand.
"Oh, it's been a long time since someone carried me," Renee says with a laugh.
I place her on to her bed softly and then pull the covers over her.
"Can I ask what's wrong, I mean what happened?"
Renee looks and me and moves over on her bed and pats it for me to sit down.
"It was a little over five years ago. Charlie and I were out for my birthday. Bella and Joshua had been left with a baby sitter; we were almost home when the car stopped dead in middle of the road. Charlie got out and looked under the hood to see if he could fix it. Two guys racing with their lights off ran right into us. Charlie died on impact and I had some broken bones. Charlie had worked in construction and I worked in the local library and was a part-time editor. So we didn't have much money. All of what we had in savings went for the funeral and hospital bills. We moved here a month later, having no choice but to let our home go back to the bank. The pain left behind after the accident just got worse every day. Before I knew it I could hardly work two hours without crying because of the pain. The library ended up letting me go because I really wasn't able to do my job. Things really got bad money wise then, and when Bella turned seventeen, she quit school and got whatever job she could to help. I still work part-time as an editor. Our money situation is still bad but we get by."
I sigh feeling so bad for them. "I am sorry," I say and Renee shakes her head at me.
"We may not have all the latest stuff, and we have gone without some things we want, but we have everything we need. Besides that we love each other, we're always there for each other, and that means so much more than monetary things ever will."
I give her a smile that says I agree with her. I watch her yawn and give her a smile as I stand up. "Goodnight, Renee," I say and she says it back to me and she turns going to sleep.
I see that Charlie the dog seems to be sitting at the door and looking at me.
"I take it you want out?" I say picking up the leash and hooking it on his collar. I take him out of the apartment and down the steps to outside. I walk around with Charlie and even pick up after him. Before long I see we have ended up at Where Heaven Leads.
"We've not got enough to feed everyone." I frown when I hear the two workers talking.
"We will have to make do, we have to believe that someone will donate money ... Oh, hey, Edward, you need the computers again?"
I swallow and nod even though I don't need online right now. I sit there and just watch as people come and go as my eyes wander. I see one of the workers sitting down with the books in front of her.
"Need any help?" I ask, knowing that I have some of the best money skills around. My life may have changed, but the facts are I know money.
She looks up at me and gives me a weak smile and I can tell she's unsure.
"I'm really good at numbers," I say.
She chuckles and pinches the bridge of her nose. "You know what, it couldn't hurt, knock yourself out," she says handing the books over to me.
"What is this place needing?" I ask knowing she's not looking at them for fun, she was searching for something.
"We need like five thousands dollars to keep this place open until the tenth of January. Most of that will go to help buy extra socks, shoes, scarfs and grooming things for the clients."
I nod as I remember that a lot of the people I met while sleeping on the street told me that these places give out some much needed stuff at Christmas.
I spend over two hours looking through the books and I'm so glad when Rose offers to help me.
"Edward?" I look up to Rose when she passes some papers over to me. "I've been looking at their spending for rent, lights and gas, and I'm a little confused."
I motion my head at her to continue and she rubs her head.
"I thought places that are used for the community like this, and schools and such get a certain non-profit discount?"
I move my head in agreement and give her a bright smile. "Yes they do, more so on the lights and gas, they can get anything between ten and forty percent off, depending upon levels of help and types of assistance they offer."
Rose tilts her head at me. "Well then, why have they been paying the full priced normal payment all along? I also checked out the taxes and they've paid for other stuff they could have written off. There are more than fifteen thousand dollars in deduction credits I've found so far that they haven't filed."
I let out a long sigh, and walk out to see the people in charge. "Can you come over here for a few minutes?" They look up and follow me back to the small office we've been working in.
"From what I have seen so far I can get you roughly two thousand in cash almost instantly. However, we also noticed major amounts of overpayments you've made. We're not sure exactly how much those total yet, but it's substantial. It will take some time to get it all processed. By the time it's settled this place will more than likely be closed. However, I would like to take these books home with me so I can get a ballpark number for you. I honestly think I could even find some more money."
They agree to allow me to take the books home.
"I am still looking at your taxes and if it's all right, could I stay in here?" Rose asks a little shyly and they again agree.
"We'll make sure you have a cot in here and we'll bring you dinner, too."
I smile and give Rose wink before picking up the books. I collect Charlie and start walking home. When I get there, I check on Renee who still seems to be in pain, I get her something to eat and a drink.
"I am sorry, I've never cooked or prepared anything before," I say a little embarrassed as I hand her the sandwich I made for her.
"This is fine, don't worry yourself. Edward, could you watch Joshua get off the bus for me?"
"Of course, I can do that," I say and walk out of the apartment deciding to get him at the bus stop.
"Hi, Edward," Joshua says as he jumps off the bus. He waves at his friend before coming over to me.
"How was school?" I ask as we walk back to the apartment.
"It was all right. I failed my math test, though. I only got eight out of the twenty correct," Joshua says with a frown. "He made me stay in at lunch to redo it. I hate math and I need to do another test on Friday."
I chuckle a little. "Do you have your math homework with you?"
"Yeah," Joshua says sounding put off by the thought of working on it.
"Good, because I'm really good at numbers, so I can help you get ready for your next test."
Joshua stops and looks at me. "Is there anything you're not good at?"
I nod at him with a serious expression. "I'm not good at cooking, and you'll see that when you get your after school snack. Oh, and I'm not good at cleaning, just wait till you see the kitchen. Also, truth be told, I'm not a good people person."
Joshua chuckles as he walks with me.
"I can help you with the cleaning and people, but you on your own with the cooking unless you ask mom or Bella."
I laugh with him and agree with his input about Bella and Renee being decent cooks. After he eats his snack, he helps me clean up and I then I help him with his homework. When we're done we turn on the cartoons and sit watch them until Bella gets home.
"Hi, Bella, my homework is all done; mom doesn't feel too good so she's in bed."
Bella looks worried but smiles and gives Joshua a kiss on the head. I watch her as she makes her way to her mom's room.
A few minutes later she walks back out and I can tell she is stressing a little.
"I will get the dinner started, but I will need to head to get mom more medication while it's in the oven."
Joshua mumbles his agreement, and I jump up following her in to the kitchen.
"I'm here to help you again," I say, and Bella hums as she smiles at me.
"There's not much to do. I cook up meals and put them in the freezer for nights like this." I watch her bring out lasagna and put it in the oven.
"Can you cut up the bread and put this on it?" she asks handing me a bowl.
I smell the dish of butter and the garlic hits me and I smile. I get to work as Bella chops up the salad. Once we are done she smiles.
"Okay, I'll head and get mom's medication. The oven timer is set, but I should be back before it's ready to come out. I'll pop the bread in when I get back." Joshua turns and nods at her.
"Can I come?" I ask looking out the window see it's really dark outside.
Bella looks at me and tilts her head. "If you'd like, it's just down the road." I bob my head; pick up my jacket as we walk out the door.
It only takes us five minutes to get there, but there's a small line that we have wait in. I'm glad when Bella's number is called and I walk with her to the counter.
"That's a hundred and twenty dollars."
Bella eyes pop a little. "What… no, we get medical-aid, it should only be twenty-five," Bella says looking at him and he shrugs at her.
"Sorry, but the card is not coming up with a discount? Did you get a bonus at work, because you may have made too much to be allowed that discount? Another lady was not even a whole dollar over and her benefits were stopped," the pharmacist says.
I watch as a tear drops down Bella's face. "But I don't have that much and she's in pain."
The man just looks at her. "There's nothing I can do, if you don't want it then you have to move there are people waiting."
I am starting to get pissed at the lack of sympathy he is showing her. "How much can I get for sixty?" Bella asks as she goes through all of her pockets.
"Two weeks' worth," he says and Bella nods at him and wipes her face free of her tears. He hands her half of what she needs and takes the last sixty dollars Bella has.
As we walk out Bella's head is down, and she keeps it down as we walk back home. When we're halfway there, I can't take it anymore and I pull her to me. Wrapping my arms around her, I hold her close. I have no words for her, but I do know that when she is in my arms I feel so much better. I just hope it's the same for her.
"I am sorry," Bella sobs out.
I lean my head down placing a kiss on the top of her head like she did to Joshua. "It's going to be okay, I'm not sure how, but it'll be okay. I'll look through your accounts and try and find out what happened, if you'd like?"
Bella motions yes at me. "Please," is all she can manage to say.
I hold her close for a few more minutes and let out a sigh, as she pulls away from me and we start to walk. I can't but help frown, because I'm upset we're no longer touching. Just as I'm trying to work out a way to touch her, she moves her hand into mine. I look at her and smile as she interlocks our fingers. Without even thinking I bring her hand to my lips and kiss it.
The night goes by with my looking over Bella and Renee's income and it looks as if what the guy said was right. With Bella's Christmas bonus it made the household income over by two dollars to qualify for state medic-aid program. Once I'm done with that, I look back at the books for Where Heaven Leads, trying to find them more money. It looks as if due to not knowing what they were entitled to, the funding ran out much faster than it should have. I was also surprised about how much they offered to families like Bella's.
It's almost twelve when I walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water. "Edward." I jump a little but chuckle when I realize it's Bella's sleepy voice.
"Sorry, I'm just getting some water. I didn't mean to wa ..."
"Edward, I can't dance," Bella says interrupting me.
With a chuckle I tilt my head and turn on the light. My heart starts to beat faster and I'm overcome with guilt and sadness. Bella's asleep on the small sofa with a light sheet over her.
I move to her and see she's still asleep. "Why are you sleeping here, sweet girl?" I ask her sleeping form. I rub my face and walk back up the hall looking for Bella's room. It's not until I'm in the hall that I realize that there's only four doors. One leads to Joshua's room, another to Renee's, the bathroom door and last one to the room that I've been sleeping in. Which means that it must be Bella's room? I've essentially taken over her bed, making her sleep on the sofa. I open the door to her room and pick up all my mess. Then head back out to the living room to Bella and pick her up.
"Edward," Bella says again.
I look down at her seeing she's still asleep and must be dreaming about me. I push aside how that makes me feel as I get to the room. I carefully place her on the bed.
I feel my heart beating fast as I enjoy hearing my name fall from her lips.
"Edward, what's going on?"
I look down to see her looking at me. "I'm putting you to bed in your bed. Why didn't you tell me I took your bed, your room?" I ask her sadly.
I feel her hand touch my face when I frown. I move her hand to my lips and kiss it.
"I am small and the sofa's not bad. You're too big to sleep on it."
I shake my head at her. "I'll be fine," I say.
As I go to leave Bella grabs a hold of my hand. "Stay? We could share; I mean the bed's not too small and I am sure we'd be fine in it together?"
I swallow looking down at her pleading face. My eyes move to the bed seeing that really it's not that big, and we'll be very close when lying on it. My heartbeat speeds up even more with thoughts of Bella being that close to me.
"If, um, are you sure?" I say questioningly and she nods moving over to the wall. I climb in and just look at her until we fall asleep.
When I wake Bella is wrapped in my arms and I breathe in her scent. In all my life this is the first time I've ever slept with someone in the same bed as me.
As I watch her I become aware that I am hard—very hard. I know I should move away but I don't want to.
"Hey," Bella says sleepily and I move her hair out of her face.
"Hi," I say back to her and smile as I see her smiling at me.
"I'm sorry for sleeping on top of you, but you are a lot more comfortable than my bed."
I chuckle a little and Bella wiggles on top of me, as her leg brushes against my hard-on her eyes open as she stares at me.
I clear my throat as I look at her. "I am sorry this has never happened to me before. I've never slept beside someone before so …" I trail off.
Bella looks at me with confusion clear on her face. "Edward, it's fine I know about morning wood, but I thought you had a girlfriend?"
"I did but we never shared a bed. We were only in the same bed if we were going to have sex and that was usually in another room."
Bella looks even more confused and I sigh.
"I had my room, she had hers. They were our rooms, our private places we kept out of each other's rooms. So when we were going to have sex we used another guest bedroom for that. When we were done, we left to go to our own rooms—fuck, that sounds so bad and unfeeling," I say feeling really shitty about how I treated Tanya.
"How did your girlfriend feel about that?"
I shrug my shoulders at her. "She never complained about it; I always thought that she was okay with it. But, now when I see her with her husband I think that she may've just been happy just to get what I was giving her. I was really a cold-hearted man."
I feel Bella touching my face, and I look at her as a small tear runs down my face.
"I didn't want to end up being like my father when I was a boy, but after Esme left, I just shut down and went with it. I've hurt so many people, you included, and I have no idea how I can make it better."
Bella kisses my lips, and moves away far too soon for my liking. "You tell them you're sorry and be the man you're meant to be. For what it's worth, I don't think you are cold hearted, I think you're just guarding your heart. You're afraid of being hurt again, you were just simply afraid. I will never hurt you and I will be in your life as long as you want me. Even if you left, my door would always be open for you to come back and sleep in my bed."
I chuckle and look deep in her eyes. "Does that mean I'd be welcome to share your bed with you?"
Bella blushes as she moves her head acceptingly.
"I don't want to go away; I don't think I could get over losing you or your family." I say.
Bella pulls me closer to her and holds me. I'm disappointed when Bella lets me go, to get ready for work. I walk with her and Charlie is with me. After she is at work, I head to Where Heaven Leads. I put Charlie out in the yard to hang with his dog friends and I head in and discuss my findings with Rose. She shows me what she found and together we go and meet with the director. Rose I and I tell them about the over spending and the things they can ask to be reimbursed for, but the money will not be in for a few months.
Once I am done, I head to Bella's work deciding to ask Aro to donate money as well as take him up on his job offer.
I dip my head at him. "I would like to take the job, but could I have my first week's wages in advance?"
Aro tilts his head as he looks at me.
"Before you ask, my reason is valid. Bella's mom is sick and needs medications. But because of the Christmas Bonus Bella received, the state stopped her medical coverage for the month because the earnings put her over the acceptable guideline. They can't afford to buy enough to get them through the month, and I want to pay for the remaining medications she needs. Also, I'd like to give them something for allowing me to stay with them."
Aro nods in agreement. "Tell you what—we need a Santa for the children's party tonight; if you'll do that, I'll give you five hundred dollars."
"I'll do it," I say with a big grin.
"Now tell me, is there anything else?" I again nod.
"There's a place called Where Heaven Leads, they're short on money for Christmas. They're due to get a few thousand dollars reimbursed to them for overpayments, but it won't come in time for the holiday. I was wondering if you would loan or donate money to them so they can provide a meal and some gifts for the homeless."
Aro shakes his head as he looks at me. "You look so different from the boy I saw a few weeks ago. You look happy—dare I say in love? I will look into what they need."
"Thank you for considering helping; it's truly a good place."
"If you go upstairs, you'll find Bella and Tanya. Let them know that you're going to be our Santa. They will go through what we need from you. I watch him walk away and head upstairs finding Bella and the other staff getting the large hall ready for the party.
"Edward?" Bella says with a smile.
"I took the job and I have one to do today. I'm playing Santa," I say.
Her eyes widen as she smiles at me. "Really?" she asks still grinning.
"Yeah, I may need some extra padding though."
"That's so cool; you'll make a hot Santa, even with the padding."
I chuckle at her and see Tanya walking toward us. "Come on, I'll show you where you can get ready."
I follow her, wondering if she is truly happy in this new life of hers.
"Are you happy?" I ask and she turns and looks at me.
"Yes, I am," she says with a smile.
"Can I ask where you met your husband?"
"I was at an all-girls' school and he was the nephew of one of the nuns, a real bad boy." She bites her lip. "We fell in love and well … I found myself pregnant. Sadly, I lost the baby and my parents were not happy. They demanded I was to stay away from him. But, I was not going to do that. However, he disappeared and my parents said they paid him off.
"Two months later I was at college and he showed up. He told me he never took the money and was put in jail for a few days. By time he got out, I was gone and he spent the last month looking for me. My parents said if I went with him they'd stop all contact with me as well as take my money. I told them to go fuck themselves. I knew that the best thing for me was to take and hold on to our love.
That was the last I saw my parents. It was a hard for a few years, but thankfully, Aro gave me a job. We're doing okay now and he's a youth counselor."
"You're fortunate to have followed your heart and got true love and happiness," I say with a smile.
She takes me through what they want me to do before leaving me to get dressed. I walk out and all the kids come running screaming, "Santa."
I have a great time talking to each of the children. Every so often, I feel someone looking at me, and when I look back I see that it's Bella. I give her a smile and a wink and chuckle as she blushes.
"Thank you, Edward," Aro says handing me the cash he offered me earlier.
I accept the money and shake his hand.
"I have also sent my accountants and a lawyer to Where Heaven Leads. They will fast track the money back to them, and my company will fund their Christmas, making sure they're able to stay open.
I let out a breath and feel relieved that something good happened for the center.
"Bella just finished up if you want to go and get her."
I thank him and shake his hand again before I walk off. I find her cleaning up one of the last rooms before she's done.
"Ready?" I ask and Bella nods at me. "Here," I say handing her the money that I made.
She looks at it then to me. "No… you made this, you should keep it."
I shake my head. "Get the rest of your mom's medications. Then I want you to go shopping for things the house needs. Your family is letting me stay with you and use your dad clothes. Please let me do this. I have never done anything for anyone, ever. Please," I plead hoping she understands how important this is for me.
She lets out a breath and gives me a sigh. "I hate when you give me the puppy dog eyes. Here," she says handing me over half of it back. "This," she holds up what she kept, "is more than enough, thank you. Now you keep that," she points to the money in my hand, "for you. Get yourself something nice."
I go ahead and agree knowing I'm not going to win. At least this way I can buy them each something for Christmas.
I was amazed by what all Bella could get with the money she had. We picked up Charlie from the center and we both were tired when we get home. I'm even more pleased that I get to share Bella's bed with her.
The week flies by and I'm now working alongside Bella. I have even gotten to know Jane and Alec, Tanya's two children, very well. I even have to admit to myself that they are great children. Between them and Joshua, I often wonder what my—or more to the point—my and Bella's children will be like.
I have also become more acquainted with what used to be my staff more. In this last week I've learned more about them—than I learned in the years they worked for me—sadly some worked for me for eight years.
Tonight is Joshua's play at school and also the twentieth of December. That means it's been twenty eight days since the night I had my meeting with Aro, and my life changed for the better.
Bella seems to be in my thoughts all the time, even in my dreams. She's there in my nightmares, too, they're all about losing her. The dreams, good and bad, have increased as my feelings toward her have grown. I'm really unsure if I should say anything or not. I may not be with the Tanya here in this life—but there is a Tanya, who I'm set to marry in my old life. I don't want to hurt Bella and have decided that if I am still here—and I have found that I am hoping to still be here after Christmas—I will tell her my story and hope she wants to be with me.
"Is everyone ready?" Bella asks walking out with Renee.
I smile at both of them. "You both look beautiful," I say walking to them, and I chuckle when they both blush.
I put out my arms for both of them to take. When we get to the stairs, I grin at Renee before picking her up to carry down the stairs. Knowing the elevator is out and she finds the steps painful, I know this is the best route. Bella laughs as Renee lets out a noise in surprise when we get to the front and I take them to the waiting car.
"What this?" Bella asks as she eyes the car.
"Garrett, Tanya's husband loaned me his car for tonight."
Bella tilts her head and gets in and I help Renee into the car. It only takes ten minutes for us to arrive at Joshua's school. We take our seats and wait for his play to start. I put my arm around Bella's shoulder and hold her other hand as the play goes on. We all cheer at the end and I can't help but smile at how well Joshua did.
"Can I take you all out for dinner?" I ask once Joshua joins us, and they all look at me.
"I just want to do this, since you've all been feeding me for the last few weeks. I want to give you all something back, so please let me do this?"
They all agree and I let out a breath I didn't realize I was holding. "Where would you like to go?" I ask as we head away from the school.
Renee tells me about a little restaurant that Charlie used to take them all to, so we head there. I'm happy that they are able to fit us in. Renee and Joshua sit at one side of the table and Bella and I sit at the other. As the night goes on I find myself having a great time. I really don't think I've ever smiled and laughed this much in my whole life. I've never been this happy, like I am with Bella and her family.
"Renee," I say knocking on her bedroom door.
"Come in, Edward," she says and I know she's smiling.
"I bought this for Bella for Christmas; I just wanted to know if you think she'll like it?"
I hold out the necklace with a snowflake on it. Renee smiles and gives me that adoring look she gives to Joshua all the time. It makes me feel like she's hugging me without touching me.
"She will love it, even more so because it's from you."
I bite my lip looking at her still feeling a little unsure. I need this to be perfect. "Yeah, she's pretty easy going," I say lowly and Renee pats my hand.
I let out a sigh. "She's done so much for me, and she makes my insides feel alive," I say.
Renee gives me another of those looks. "Well, Edward, that's love for you. It's a very powerful force when it hits, even more so when you let it in."
I swallow as I look at her.
"When are you going to tell her you're in love with her?"
I let out a breath. "What if she doesn't say back?" I ask looking at the floor as Renee chuckles.
"I know my daughter and she looks at you as if you hang the moon and the stars. Edward, she loves you. You must see it when she looks at you."
I shrug a little, I mean, I've seen things in her that make me feel it, but then I become unsure.
"I really don't have much to make it romantic for her, and she deserves that at least."
"Why don't you take her to the roof? There's going to be a small meteor shower, and it's very pretty up there."
"I think I will do that," I say before giving her a hug and kissing her cheek. "Thank you," I say and walk away.
I pick up a blanket and lead Bella up to the roof. I sit on one of the blankets and Bella sits between my legs with my arms around her. We lean back and look up and watch the streaks of lights in the sky.
"Wow, that's amazing," Bella says as she smiles.
I agree and kiss the top of her head. Once it's over I help her to stand and get lost in her eyes.
"Bella, there's some stuff I need to tell you, but I want to do it after Christmas. But for now, I need to tell you that I love … I am in love with you. I don't know how I came to be here, but I know that I will be forever grateful for whatever it was that led me to you."
Bella stands on her tiptoes and kisses my lips. "I'm in love with you, too, and maybe it was a Christmas miracle that led you here."
I chuckle a little before kissing her lips again. "I don't want to lose you," I say choking up. I don't know why, but all of a sudden I have a feeling of dread. "I will fight for you, I will not let you go," I say pulling her to me. "I want to stay," I say with a sob.
"Then stay," she says.
I shake my head at her. "I don't think I have a complete choice in this."
Bella tilts her head at me, and I can't shake the dread. I start to feel real scared and my hand goes into my pocket and I feel her necklace.
"I want to give you this," I say dangling it in front of her.
Her whole face lights up as she smiles at it and then at me. "You bought me this?"
I hum my acknowledgement and she turns around moving her hair out the way.
"Remember," I say, "please remember me. If a guy you work for—who you've known to be a cold, hard man—comes to you saying he loves you, please remember that it's me and I really do love you. With everything—I am and have—I love you. You have to remember, promise me you will remember?"
I watch as Bella smiles weakly at me but she whispers, "yes."
I hug her more and lightly kiss her, praying that this is only a bad feeling that will pass without any changes for me.
"Let's go to bed," she says taking my hand.
I follow her home and keep her close to me the whole time. The entire night I stay awake not wanting to fall asleep in case my new family is not here when I wake up. I feel Bella's breath on my chest and I pull her even closer to me.
The light shines in my eyes and I slowly wake up but feel strange—different. I look down expecting to find Bella's head on my chest but she's not there. I sit up and find that I am in my old room.
"Fuck no, please no," I yell and run out of my bedroom only find that I am back in my house.
"Is everything okay, Mr. Cullen?" I look down seeing Mary one of my maid staff.
"Whose building are we in?" I ask and she looks at me with worry.
"We're in your building, Cullen ICO, do you wish me to get Miss Tanya for you?"
I feel like I can't breathe as I sink to the floor. I knew this would happen, I knew she would be taken away from me.
"Mr. Cullen?" I hear Bella's sweet voice say.
I turn seeing her behind me and I leap up and pull her to me.
"I thought I lost you, but you're here," I say over and over again.
"Edward, let Bella go, you're scaring her," Tanya says from beside me.
I shake my head not wanting to give her up in case I lose her again. I feel my body shake and I look down at Bella who looks scared.
"Don't be afraid of me, love, I will never hurt you."
Bella's eyes start to water and she looks around herself.
"Edward, let's go and talk," Tanya says pulling on my arm. I watch and the other staff moves Bella quickly out of my reach. "Edward what was that about?" Tanya says softly and I look at her.
"I am in love with her," I say and Tanya, for a split second looks heart broken.
"You don't know her."
I shake my head at her. "But I do, and I know I am not the one for you. I am so sorry about how I have treated you, I will help you find Garrett."
Tanya's face pales as she looks at me. "How do you know that name?" she asks as I let out a sigh.
I spend the next hour and half telling her everything that I went through in the past twenty nine days.
"Edward, you need to go to Aro, and stop the closure of Where Heaven Leads. Today is the last day you can pull out. As for Bella, you're going to have to show her the new you. I think you—the old you that is—is the only one that remembers. You got her to love you once, you will again. So let's get to work."
I tilt my head looking at her. "You're really going to help me?"
She smiles and nods at me. "What can I say? I love, love stories," she says with a wink. "And you've been my best friend for ten years. We both know this," she waves her hand between us, "should never have gone beyond friendship. However, it was convenient and easy. We're both afraid of heartbreak and that's why we pulled together, for each other."
I hug her to me. "Thank you."
"Thank me after you're married to your girl. Come on, we've got our work cut out for us. Oh, I should give this back to you," Tanya says taking off her ring and I shake my head at her.
"Oh, keep it, Tanya."
She looks down at it biting her lip.
"Please, I know that you loved it the second you saw it, so please keep it."
Tanya places the ring on her right hand and winks at me before walking out of the room. I smile for a few seconds then jump up to get dressed.
I head down to my office. "Alice," I say when I get there and her eyes pop open as she looks at me in shock. "Alice, are you okay, do you need the day off?" I say softly to her and she shakes her head.
"You called me Alice."
I tilt my head at her. "That is your name, right, or do you now want to be called Mary?"
Alice narrows her eyes at me. "No, Alice is fine, it's just you … never—" she cuts herself off by covering her mouth and I chuckle a little.
"I know and I am sorry. Let's just say I had a wake-up call. I would like you to inform everyone that today is the last day of work for the holiday and that they all have until the seventh of January off, with full pay. That goes for everyone in the company and in my personal employ."
Alice looks at me in shock and then nods at me. "Yes sir, I will get on that."
I smile at her and pick up the contracts from my office and head down to my car. "Good morning, Emmett."
Again, I get another odd look. I realize it's him being shocked from me calling him by his right name.
"I am going to need you all day today and maybe over the next couple of days. As I have given all the other staff time off with pay, I will pay you four times the amount per the day I need you. Is that acceptable to you?"
Emmett just nods as he holds open my door for me. I instead move around the car and get in the front passenger side.
He quickly shuts the back door and gets in; still giving me a look saying he is a little unsure of my new attitude. "Where should I go first, Sir?"
I look at Emmett and smile at him. "Take me to see Aro and you can call me Edward," I say and watch as he grins at me.
I arrive at Aro's and I'm glad that he agrees to see me right away.
"Edward, my boy, how are you?"
I smile, shaking my head at him. "I'm on the road to getting better, that's why I'm here. It's about Where Heaven Leads, I no longer want to go through with the plans."
Aro shakes his head. "It's a bit late."
I shake my head at him. "No, I had up until eight this evening."
Aro chuckles a little as he looks at me. "You look different, tell me your story and I will help you."
I let out a sigh and tell him everything and I watch as he smiles at me.
"Marvelous," he says rubbing his hands together. "I will agree to pull out. I take it you are going to help them with the funding they need?" I agree and he grins at me. "You, my boy, really have changed, and looks to be for the better. Now, tell me, are you happy?"
I smile sadly at him. "No, I'm not happy, not fully anyway. I do know what, and who it is that makes me happy. I'm willing to do anything—give up everything—to have them back in my life."
He motions his head in understanding at me. "I'm here if you need my help."
I thank him for his offer, shake his hand and walk back out to Emmett.
"Can you take me to Where Heaven Leads?" Emmett agrees and starts to drive. We pull up and I see everyone looking my way.
"Good morning, Brett, Sophia," I say as I approach the desk.
"Good morning, Mr. Cullen," they both say as they look at me.
"I am here to help you with Christmas and keep this place open."
They both seem to fall back onto the chairs that were behind them.
"Rose," I say looking to Rose who's looking at me with fear and worry. "I know you've been helping out around here. I have a driver outside and he has my credit card. Could you go with him and get everything this place needs, for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinners? As well as packs of socks, toothbrushes, shampoo, and any other hygiene things the center needs for the clients. Also, pick up something gender appropriate for each person to be given from the center, use your discretion, I'm sure you'll do well."
She nods at me almost dumbfounded and walks quickly out.
The morning goes well with several of my staff helping the center staff go through the books. Rose arrives back smiling with Emmett close on her heels laughing.
"Rose," I say and she walks up to me.
"I would like to offer you a full-time job. My company is going to oversee this center and I would like you to be the go between. You will keep my office team and the people here on the same page. The job comes with an apartment and a car with a driver as well as clothing allowance, are you interested?"
Rose looks at me unsure as if I am trying to trap her.
"Rose, you should know that, neither I nor my company any longer deals with Mr. King. I am on my way to see him right now, to cut all ties with him, completely."
She looks at me a little upset but nods at me. "I would like that very much, Mr. Cullen."
I shake my head at her. "It's Edward." she smiles at me nodding again. "I'll book you into a hotel until I'm able to get your apartment ready." I walk out and get back into the car.
As I head to Mr. King's office, I call Alice asking her to find out who owns Bella's building. She calls me back five minutes later and tells me that it is one of my own buildings. To say the least, I'm in shock and am ashamed of myself instantly.
Mr. King was not happy about my company pulling out all ties, but there's really nothing he can do about it. As soon as I'm done, I head to Bella's building. When I arrive, the creep caretaker comes out to meet me. He's all smiles, but he still gives me the creeps. I fire him on the spot. It's no issue when I have proof that I've given him money to fix this place up and he never did. I've no idea what he did with it, but he must've kept it for himself.
"Emmett, can you go back to Where Heaven Leads and find me a man named, Jasper Whitlock?"
He agrees and walks out and I start to look around the place. I start writing down all the things that need to be fixed.
I am down a hall when I hear barking coming toward me. I look down just as Charlie jumps up on me.
"Hi, Charlie, I've missed you, too," I say as I bend down to pet him.
"I'm sorry; I didn't mean to drop his leash. Please don't tell my mom or sister."
I chuckle looking up at Joshua. "I won't," I say with a smile and he smiles back at me.
"What are you doing?" he asks and I look back down at him.
"I am making a list of what all needs to be fixed. I'm going to get this place looking brand new."
Joshua bites his lip as he looks at me. "Does that mean our rent will go up, because Benny said that if he got things fixed our rent would go up?"
I sigh hating the creepy guy even more. "No, the rent will go down, I just need to work out the expenses of the building, like lights and gas, and divide it out by the number of apartments. Then I will know how much rent I will end up charging."
Joshua looks at me in shook. "Really, and you're going to fix the broken stuff, too?"
I smile and tell him I am.
"Can I help?" he asks quickly.
"You can, but you'll have to tell your mom first so she doesn't worry," I answer him right away.
He nods and I follow him up to his apartment with Charlie in tow behind us.
He walks in and pulls me in the door with him. "Mom," he yells and I watch as Renee sits up looking at us. "This is my new friend." Joshua looks at me.
"Good afternoon, Renee, I'm Edward Cullen and Joshua here has asked to help me make a list of everything this place needs fixed. I said it was okay if it was all right with you."
She nods, looking at me a little strangely. "Are you sure he won't be in your way, Mr. Cullen?"
I shake my head at her. "No, he won't be any problem, and it's Edward." I can see that she's in pain. I walk in and head to the kitchen getting her water and pills. I frown seeing there's only a few left. Then I remember it was me that gave Bella the money for them, she must not have been able to afford them. "Here you go, Renee," I say softly handing her the water and her pills.
She takes them from me and gives me a weak smile.
"We'll be close by if you need us," I say walking out with Joshua following me. It doesn't take me long to get everything done and I am shocked to find there are over a hundred things that need to be fixed. I get on my cell calling the people and offering them triple the asking price to have them come immediately and get the jobs completed. Top on my list was the elevator and the lights that are out.
"Joshua," I hear Bella call. I turn and see her slowly walking toward us.
"Hi, Bella, this is Edward, he's my new friend. He's fixing this place up and our rent will go down, not up. That's so cool, right?"
Bella looks at Joshua then to me. "Yeah, that's cool, but dinner is ready now."
Joshua turns to me. "Can I help you again later?" He asks happily and I nod at him and he runs off leaving Bella and I alone.
"I'm sorry if I scared you this morning; I was a little out of it."
She looks at me strangely. "Yes, you did seem a little confused; you just more than likely thought I was Tanya or something."
I shake my head at her. "No, I knew exactly who you were, Bella."
She frowns a little. "I'm ... am I going to get fired? I mean Tanya looked upset when you ... we ... um, the hug, um with me. I know she had a right to be mad, she's going to be your wife," Bella says quickly and then closes her eyes.
I softy touch her arm and she looks at me. "No, you're not getting fired and Tanya and I are no longer together."
Bella looks at me in a panic. "What ... oh my God! I'm sorry; I can tell her you just got confused. I can tell her there's nothing between us. I can fix this for you ..."
I pull her close to me shaking my head. "Listen to me; it's not your fault that Tanya and I split up. We should never have been together in the first place. Her heart has always belonged to another man. Recently, I, too, fell in love with the most beautiful girl who has an amazing heart. I can't be with Tanya if I'm trying to get her back, now can I?"
I watch her eyes get watery as she looks at me and mutters something like, "what the hell I am doing?" Her eyes meet mine. "Would you like to join my family and me for dinner?" I smile at her, but a movement catches my eye and I see Emmett is back with Jasper.
"I would love to, but I need to talk to these two gentlemen first. It should only take five to ten minutes. May I meet you up there?"
Bella looks behind her and then back to me and moves her head agreeing.
"Jasper Whitlock, I'm Edward Cullen, thank you for coming and meeting with me. I would like to offer you a job as the new caretaker for this building. It comes with an apartment which is rent and utilities included. You'll also receive a small monthly stipend to make sure the walks and halls stay free of clutter. You'll be in charge of minor maintenance. Making sure major maintenance issues are called in right away and oversee any work that needs to be done."
Jasper's eyes widen as he looks at me. "Really?"
"Yes, and I would also like you to be security for Where Heaven Leads during the dinner hours daily. I know there's not much trouble, I just would like to know someone is available to help if needed."
Jasper open and closes his mouth.
"All of this comes with a full benefit package as well. You'll have full medical insurance and I will also be sure you have a doctor who can see you immediately for your PTSD symptoms."
"Well then, I would like to take the job–well jobs."
I nod at him and smile. "Ben, the guy who was the building caretaker has just moved out. So the caretaker's apartment won't be ready for a day or two, but I have people coming tomorrow. If you go with Emmett, he will get you dinner for tonight, and then take you to pick the stuff you will need for the apartment, and at least a week's worth of new clothes before dropping you off at hotel which will all be paid for. When you arrive here tomorrow morning to oversee the things being fixed, I'll meet with you longer."
"Thank you, Mr. Cullen," Jasper says still sounding in shock.
"No, thank you, Jasper," I say with a smile and a handshake before walking to Bella's apartment. I softly knock on the door and Joshua opens it and I see Bella and Renee setting the table.
"Is there anything I can do?" I ask and they both shake their heads. It takes only five minutes for it to feel like it did last night. I think at the end of dinner, Bella is in shock about how well and fast the night goes by.
I'm sad when I have to leave. Everything in me wants to pull Bella back to her bedroom so I could hug her to me as we sleep.
"I'll see you after Christmas, Mr. Cullen," Bella says softly and my heart skips a beat knowing that I can't wait that long.
"Could you do a few extra hours at least tomorrow? I will pay you cash in hand and no one will find out about it? I just don't want to be alone," I say pleading with her with my eyes.
"Yes, that will be fine, when do you need me?" I smile at her and she smiles back right away.
"Ten tomorrow morning, I'll have Emmett pick you up." Before she can so much as agree or not, I start talking again. "In fact here," I say handing her a hundred dollars, "I will have Emmett drive you to get your mom's medication refill and drop you back here tonight. The pharmacy is still open, correct?"
"Wh ... what, yes, but what about you?" Bella asks with a stutter.
"I think I'm going to walk, and please take this money. It was the bonus that you got that made you over—so it was effectively my fault—and either way she needs it. I'll also be making sure that all my staff has full family medical insurance provided by the new year, as well."
Bella frowns a little. "But my mom doesn't work for you."
I shake my head at her. "Yet," I say and pick up her jacket pulling her behind me. I hand her off to Emmett and give her more money to go grocery shopping, too, saying that she may as well get everything she needs while she has the use of a car. I stay until they drive off and then start to make my way home. As I pass some homeless people I hand each of them fifty dollar bills. They all smile at me and wish me a merry Christmas. I feel a lot lighter and happier when I arrive home.
"Tanya," I say as I head up to her room.
"Do we have any Christmas decorations?"
Her eyes go wide, and then she starts to chuckle. "You really have changed, haven't you, but no we don't."
I frown and then look to her and smile. "Could you arrange to buy everything this place needs, and get it here by tomorrow at ten in the morning? If you can do this for me, I'll be able to decorate with Bella's help tomorrow. Could you please do this?" I ask bouncing on my feet, as I look at her she bobs her head at me with a giggle.
"Thank you, goodnight, Tanya," I say walking back out as she chuckles.
The next morning I decided not to send Emmett to get Bella, but collect her myself since I'm meeting Jasper anyway. I meet with Jasper at eight and go over several of the things that I want him to do immediately. I give him a company cell phone and list of contractors and companies that will fix things.
At ten, I knock on Bella's door and collect her for work. When we get back to the apartment—I've called home for a while now—Tanya has already had everything dropped off.
"So, I want to decorate this place and make it look festive. Will you help me?" I ask Bella shyly, and she agrees instantly. It seems to take us no time at all to have the place looking like it's Christmas.
"Do you have stockings to hang up?" I look at her and remember that Esme had got me one.
"Yeah I do, it should be in the old storage cupboard." Both Bella and I head there and start to look through all the boxes.
"Oh, I think I see it," Bella says standing on her tiptoes as she pulls on the stack. Suddenly, the box under it falls and loads of letters drop out.
"I am sorry," Bella says as she starts to pick them up. I pick up one and look at it and see that it's addressed to me. I take the letter out and my heart sinks seeing that it's from Esme from when I was a boy.
"Edward?" Bella says softly as I start to look at some of the others.
"She didn't forget me, he kept her away," I say on a sob. "I thought she didn't care, but she did and I treated her so badly."
I feel Bella wrap her arms around me and I pull her on to my lap and I cry into her neck.
"I am horrible man, no wonder everyone leaves me."
I feel Bella rubbing my back as she hushes me. "You're not horrible, just alone and you don't know how ..."
I pull away from her and stare into her eyes and I see it, she loves me. She may not understand it but she does.
"Please, help me be better?"
"I will try," she whispers.
I kiss her head and she pulls away giving me a weak smile.
"Will you come with me to meet her, tomorrow?" Bella agrees and squeezes me once more before standing up.
"If you don't need anything else today, then may I go home, sir?"
I sigh not really wanting her to go, but I know deep down I can't push this too much.
"You may and thank you for everything today," I say and she smiles at me.
The rest of the night and the next morning I feel restless like I can't breathe. I drive and pick Bella up and it's not until she's with me that I feel okay again. After getting her in the car, we head to Esme's home. I'm shocked when the doctor that saw me in the hospital opens the door. He lets us in and I get another shock as sitting next to Esme is my driver Emmett.
"Edward," Esme says smiling weakly at me with pain clear on her face.
I move to her and close my eyes before hugging her close to me. "I thought you lied and that you didn't care about me. He never gave me the letters I ... I'm so sorry," I sob out.
I can feel her cry against my chest and I sob more because I know I've hurt her so much.
"I didn't want to go, I tried to say goodbye but he had me thrown out. I should've tried harder to see you. I should've told you what happened, instead of wanting you to think better of your father."
Bella and I spend the rest of the day with Esme and her family. I was sad to learn that she got married eight years ago, but I refused to go to her wedding. She showed me loads of pictures of things I've missed over the last ten years. We talked and I promised that I wouldn't miss anything on purpose, ever again.
"So you'll come over on New Years for dinner? Both of you, and your family, too Bella," Esme says as she hugs us goodbye.
"We will," I say before Bella can say no. "Can you give me a second?" I ask Bella and she nods at me before walking to my car.
"You're in love with her?" Esme says.
I smile and nod in agreement at her. "I am–she's my everything."
Esme hugs me to her. "You need to tell me this story of how you changed?"
"I will, after I tell Bella," I agree wholeheartedly. I kiss her head and walk back to the car and take Bella home for the night. I hate that I'm again leaving her.
The next three days go by with Tanya helping me plan Christmas day for Bella and her family. I also get her the same necklace I did knowing that she loved it.
"You sure this going to work?" I say questioningly to Tanya who rolls her eyes at me.
"Yes, but maybe I should go home?" I shake my head not wanting her to spend Christmas alone again.
"You know I would've been alone on the boat," Tanya says reading my thoughts.
"You would've had staff there; I know you took the ones that didn't have a family so you had someone."
Tanya blushes a little and looks out the car window.
"Fine then, drop me off at Where Heaven Leads, and I will lend a hand in there," she says in a voice that I know that I can't argue with.
I drop her off and make sure everything is okay before I head to Bella's. I arrive at the little after two and head upstairs. I knock on the door and Bella answers it smiling at me.
"Hi, I'm glad you're here," she says.
I chuckle giving her a grin and a wink knowing that it makes her blush. "Hi sweetheart," I say and her blush darkens even more. "I have gifts," I say holding up the bags.
Bella moves letting me in and I hand them out to Renee and Joshua, but Bella runs off coming back a few minutes later with a bag, handing it to me.
"It's not much," Bella says sadly.
I pull her to me, hugging her. "I'm sure I'll love it, thank you," I say kissing her head.
I watch them all open their gifts and Bella looks a little confused as if something is missing. I watch her hand go to her neck, but she drops it when she feels nothing. My hand goes to my pocket feeling the necklace, but knowing that I want to give to her later tonight.
"Oh my God, he got me an Xbox 360," Joshua shouts and I smile at him shaking my head.
"That's from your mom," I say with a wink at Renee. "She just wanted me to get the right one; she said she was unsure which one to get."
Joshua smiles and runs to his mom's open arms. "Thank you, Mom," he says and Renee looks at me mouthing, "thank you."
"Can you hook it up for me?"
"I can, but you need to wait for the new television to get here first, it shouldn't be too long."
Almost on queue there's a knock on the door and I jump up answering to Jasper who helps the delivery guy bring in the television.
Jasper helps me set it all up and hook up the Xbox. Joshua starts to play right away, inviting Jasper to play with him.
"Oh my God, it's snowing!" Joshua shouts looking out the window.
"What… this is Los Angeles, we don't get snow?" Bella says looking out and her mouth drops open.
"Can we go out?" Joshua asks looking at his mom and Bella, they nod getting their jackets.
Jasper and I help Renee to the elevator and outside. Jasper stops in at his apartment and brings Renee out a chair.
"What the hell is going on?" Bella says as she spins in the snow. I watch her play with Joshua and the other kids throwing snowballs at each other.
"It's time," Tanya says in my ear. I look to her and back to Bella before taking a look at Renee who seems happy chatting with Jasper. "I'll keep an eye on them, go on. Go tell the girl you love her."
I smile at Tanya before walking to Bella.
"Bella, can I show you something?"
"Sure," she says and I take her hand.
I lead her inside and I take her to the top floor in the elevator. We get off the elevator and turn to the stairs that reach the roof.
"Snow machines?" Bella says laughing as she sees the three large machines working away to create the snow below.
I chuckle tilting my head at her as I pull up her jacket collar.
"It's so pretty," Bella say looking down at the kids playing still.
She gasps when the church choir starts to sing. "You did all this?"
"Yes," I say and I watch as her eyes fill up with tears.
"I've been having really weird dreams. You were always in them." She shakes her head and blinks her eyes. "It was you, without your money. At first you seemed angry at the world especially at me. But then you saved me from two mean guys."
I just look at her and listen as she speaks.
"I was walking home and got mugged. They were going to do more, but someone walking past yelled making them leave. They didn't end up taking my bag or my money they got spooked. That night I dreamt that you saved me."
I swallow knowing what was real for me, was a dream for her.
"In my dream you stayed with us, my family and me. You got a job and I fell in love with you. You brought me up here and you said you were scared that ..." She stops as the tears run down her face.
"That I was going to lose you," I carry on. "I told you that I had something to tell you and that I wanted to wait until after Christmas. I told you that I would tell you on Christmas. Then I told you that I loved you that I was in love with you. I also gave you this," I say taking the necklace out and she gasps looking at me.
"It wasn't a dream?"
I shake my head placing my hand on her cheek. "For you it was a dream, for me it was reality. I told you I don't know what brought me here, but I will always be grateful. And you said,"
"Maybe it's a Christmas miracle," we say together.
"May I show you?" I ask and she nods a little at me. I smile looking at her standing up here with me. The snow is falling all around us. "I love you, Isabella Swan," I say and then lean down to kiss her.
It only takes her a few moments to kiss me back as she grabs at my shirt.
"I," Bella says as she pulls back, "my heart's screaming that it loves you, too, but my head needs a little time."
I kiss her again. "I understand my love; can I put this on you?" I ask holding up her necklace she nods at me. I put it on her and she smiles at me. She walks back to the door, but stops at the door and mutters something before looking back at me. Suddenly, she is running and jumping into my arms.
"I love you, so much. I have no clue how this can be, but I do, I love you. I knew that morning when you hugged me. I knew then it was love, and I was so scared I lost you. I felt so lost that morning like my heart was being crushed. It felt so much better when you held me, but at the same time it scared me. But I do love you."
I hold her to me, kissing her with everything I have, showing her what I feel for her.
"Marry me," I say.
At the same time as Bella says, "Have dinner with us."
I look at her sheepishly, and then shrug my shoulders. "I want you forever. And for the record, I'd really like to stay and have dinner with you. But, Tanya's here, too, and she's spent the last twenty eight years alone at Christmas."
"She can come, too, if she wants" Bella says softly.
"So now answer to my question then?"
Bella doesn't say anything, but at least she's not saying no.
"Bella, I really want you to marry me, and be my wife. It's okay, you don't have to answer right this minute. I have a week off of work to convince you to say yes."
Bella chuckles before kissing my lips once more. She takes my hand and leads me down to her apartment. I am stunned to see Tanya sitting there watching TV with Joshua, Renee and Jasper.
"Hello," I say and Tanya smiles at me.
"You've got to watch this cartoon; it's called sponged bod square paints."
I chuckle shaking my head at her. "Yes, I know, I've seen it."
Bella and I join them and we all laugh as we watch. Soon we're all playing games. I'm happy to see that Renee also invited Jasper to dinner, too. As we all sit around the table I smile holding Bella's hand.
My eyes go to Tanya and I see that she, too, finally seems happy. It's amazing what we've gave up and missed in our lives. We share a smile, and I know that my oldest and dearest friend is truly happy for me as well as with herself.
At the end of the night, I see Bella frowning.
"What's wrong, my love?"
Bella blushes at me. "I'm going to miss you. I wish you could stay."
I let out a sigh wanting to stay, too.
"Bella, you're eighteen and old enough to make your own choices. Besides, I have a feeling that Edward here is going to be in our lives for a very long time."
I smile at Renee in thanks before looking at Tanya.
"Jasper already said I could stay in his spare room, I'll be fine," Tanya says hugging me and then Bella.
"You're so good for him, but be sure to keep him on his toes."
Bella nods and Tanya walks out the apartment with Jasper.
Bella takes my hand leading me back to her room and lending me her dad's clothes. I let out a breath as she hugs into me and drifts off to sleep.
I smile holding my girl, finally feeling at home.
~Epilogue will post very soon.~
A/N: There is a rather decent sized Epilogue for this to post, but it will be a few days before it does. We hope that you all have a wonderful and joyous holiday: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, Hanukkah, Kwanza, St. Lucia Day, Three Kings Day, Winter Solstice, Eid Al Adha or whatever it is that you and yours celebrate. Nikky & Kasi~