Well your response to the last chapter was rather...amusing to say the least. You all loved the Emmett/Edward convo at the end and your comments made me laugh very loudly at times - thank you for that. We will continue on now.


Sitting around the table, all of us now composed, Rose spoke up.

"Okay, Jenks will be contacting the magazine, threatening slander. And as much as you hate to comment, Edward, I'll issue a statement, confirming you are in a loving, committed relationship with a trusted member of your staff. It will also say that while you value any relationship built on love and trust, you are not now, nor at any time in your life, in fact, been gay."

"There's nothing wrong with being gay," I insisted. "I have gay friends. I love gay people…" My voice trailed off as Rose held up her hand.

"You're rambling again, Edward. Shut up. I have that covered."

I nodded. "Right. Excellent suggestion. Thanks."

Beside me, Bella snickered. I pulled her close and nuzzled her head. She was so calm and it helped to calm me as well. Her way of seeing the humour of the whole situation was exactly what I needed.

Emmett leaned back. "Well, it's out now." He grinned widely. "Or at least Edward is."

I shot him a withering glance. Bella giggled again as Emmett chuckled and Rose smacked him. He looked injured, then cleared his throat and became serious. "They know you're a couple and from now on the scrutiny is going to get worse." He turned to Bella, his expression now one of concern. "Are you sure you're up for this crap? You're going to be followed and questioned. Your privacy is shot."

I regarded her anxiously as she quietly gave Emmett's words some thought.

"We knew this would happen," she said quietly. "I knew Edward was too well-known for our relationship to remain private. It frightens me some, I admit." Her hand squeezed mine. "But it can't last forever—surely they'll get tired of our relationship and someone else will pique their interest. Right?"

I turned, pressing a kiss to her head. "Eventually, yes. But we don't know when. This could last a while. Scrutiny is always the worst when I have a movie coming out. And the fucking studio almost encourages it. They will follow you. Shout at you to get a reaction. Crowd you. They'll interrupt your day—even grocery shopping will be difficult." I looked at Emmett. "Should we hire someone to be with her?"

Bella gasped beside me. "Like a bodyguard? I think that is slightly excessive."

Emmett shook his head. "Bella, you have no idea how intrusive these people can be. What happened the other night is just a small glimpse of how they can act. Edward is right; maybe someone with you, who can run interference, is a good idea."

For the first time today, she looked upset. "I don't like the idea."

"I don't like the idea of you being subjected to the likes of these assholes," I snapped, suddenly angry, as the humour faded and reality set in. Why couldn't she understand this? She knew how much I hated this part of my life. "They can be vicious, Bella. It's like nothing you've ever gone through." I stood up, pacing. "You are about to find out. And it's not going to be fun." I'd experienced it far too often, and now, because of me, so would Bella. Until recently she had been a shadow in my life—someone on the edge to whom they paid no attention. Now she was front and centre. A prime target. We'd discussed this already, but I had hoped we'd have a little more time before we had to deal with it. I stopped pacing and looked out of the window at the sun reflecting off the pool, the light shimmering on the surface, much like the panic that was now simmering below my skin. A shudder ran through me.

Could we handle this situation?

Could Bella?

Arms draped around me and Bella's warmth pressed in to my back. Turning, I wrapped myself around her, and we stood together, drawing comfort from our quiet embrace.

I said my fear out loud. "It might make you change your mind about us."

"Nothing can make me change my mind. If it makes you feel better for me to have security, I'll do it," she whispered. Her head tilted back, her eyes filled with worry.

"I have to keep you safe, Bella. It's only for a while. Please understand that. I have to make sure you're okay."

She nodded. "I know. I don't like it. But I do understand." Her hand cupped my cheek. "We'll figure it all out. I'm not going anywhere, Edward."

I pressed her against me, kissing her deeply.

I needed to hear that. I needed to know she was still with me.

I buried my hands in her hair, holding her close to my face. My tongue licked and delved, needing her taste to calm me. I groaned as I pulled her nearer, my emotions suddenly raw and needy.

Some part of my brain registered Emmett and Rose leaving the room.

"I can't lose you," I murmured against her mouth. "I can't even stand the thought of it."

"You won't," she insisted, running her hands and down my back. "I'll be right here when you get back. I promise. I'll be waiting on your gay ass coming home to me."

I chuckled in to her hair, knowing she was trying to lighten the mood. "Of all the angles I thought they'd go with, I never thought about that one." I grinned down at her. "I was sure they'd point out what an old lady you were. Cradle snatching and robbing me of my virtue and all."

Bella mock glared at me, but her tone was serious. "They probably will soon enough."

I kissed her. "And it will be as false as this one. Equally insulting, and filled with lies."

She nodded. "I know, it was rather insulting. Like the only reason you'd date me is 'cause you're gay." She huffed dramatically. "I'm not that hideous. I've got moves too, you know."

"I know that, Beaker. I've seen some of your moves. Or were you holding back on me?"

She grinned up at me. "Not telling."

The way she looked at me made everything else fade away. I didn't care about reporters, or false stories or anything outside this room. Only her. Only us.

I pressed my forehead against hers, my voice serious. "Thank you. For today … for keeping me calm. For everything." I sighed deeply. "I love you, Bella."

Her arms tightened around me. She rose up on her toes, her mouth brushing against mine. Softly, her lips nuzzled me. "I love you, Edward."

Three small words.

Words I so desperately wanted to hear.

Ones I wasn't sure she'd ever say.

Nothing else mattered.

Because everything right, everything true, was here in my arms.

"Bella—" Crashing my mouth to hers, I let my lips and tongue tell her how I felt about her statement.

I dropped my face in to her neck, breathing her in deeply.

She loved me.

My Beaker.

Mine.

Together, we'd figure this out, because I wasn't letting her go. Ever.

I pulled her tighter, feeling my emotions beginning to overtake me. I wasn't used to this intensity. Feeling so much for one person. Worried about them. Not wanting to leave them.

With Bella, though, I felt so much. And right now it was crashing over me.

Her arms held me close as she returned my passion. "Say it again," I pleaded against her softness.

"I love you, Edward. So very much."

"How long?"

She smiled as she traced my bottom lip with her finger. "Since you smirked at me and told me you were sitting there, interviewing me, commando."

I shook my head. She'd even been ahead of me in this, only she kept it hidden. "All this time? You kept it to yourself, all this time? Even after I said I loved you?"

"I was afraid there were too many obstacles, too many reasons for us not to be together. I was afraid I wasn't good enough for you. I didn't think I could fit into your world. As your friend I could at least be close to you."

I shook my head in wonder. If anything, she was too good for me.

"And now?"

She sighed wearily. "I'm tired of holding the feelings in, Edward. I'm tired of trying to stay away and only be your friend." She drew in a deep breath. "James let me know, so often, I was a failure as a wife because I never made him happy. I never did anything right in his eyes. Everything that went wrong was my fault. All the time. Even his inability to keep a job."

I waited. She rarely spoke about her ex. All I knew was their marriage had ended long before he left her and that when he did leave he took everything they had, leaving her in a vulnerable financial position. Emmett had disliked him intensely and hated how he treated Bella.

"I swore I would never let my guard down again. I was so busy trying to fix what was wrong with me, to make him happy, I didn't see what he was doing or that Emmett was right and James was only using me, until it was too late. Once I lost my job and the only income for us, for James to spend, I was no longer of any use to him and he left." She snorted, "Taking everything of value with him."

"Not everything, Bella."

She looked up. "What?"

"He left the most valuable thing behind: you. He is just too much of an idiot to know that."

"He never made me feel that way." Her quiet voice revealed her vulnerability.

"I'll show you that—every day, if you let me. I know it took me a while, but I want you to know how much you mean to me. Let your guard down and trust me. I won't let you down, I promise."

"I want that, Edward. So much."

"Hey." I waited until her eyes met mine. "We can have both, Beaker. You are my best friend—the added bonus is we love each other too. It's the best of both worlds. And you, you, are perfect for me. Never doubt that."

The smile I loved so much lit up her face. Warm, open and filled with love.

"You're the best of both worlds for me as well."

I tugged her closer and kissed her deeply.

There was nothing left to say.

She had said it all.

*()*

"God, I miss you," I sighed in to the phone. "This week is never going to end."

Bella laughed softly. "You've only been gone two days, Oscar."

"Two bloody long ones." I paused. "Don't you miss me?"

Her voice became shy. "Yeah, I do."

"Where are you sleeping, Bella?" I asked huskily.

"In your bed. It smells like you."

I shut my eyes, groaning. I could see her there, her dark hair spilled across the pillow as she slumbered, curled up like a contented kitten. I wanted to be behind her, tucked around her soft body and feeling her warmth pressed against me. I could feel myself stirring, my cock aching at the thought of being close to her again. "I'm not letting you out of my bed for days when I get home," I growled. "I'm gonna shag you senseless."

"We don't have to stick to the bed," she whispered, teasing me. "I like the kitchen … and the couch."

"What about the desk—and the stairs? You like those too?"

She whimpered.

My head fell back against the chair. This woman was going to be the death of me. I also knew I had to change the subject and fast. I had a costume fitting in a few minutes and at the moment I couldn't possibly walk in there. "Behave, Beaker."

Then I cleared my throat. "Any trouble today?"

She sighed quietly. "Jake took me to the store to pick up some things. It was fine."

"Fine?"

"He drove. I hid."

"Did they follow?"

"No."

"Really?" I was surprised. There had been a crowd outside the gate when I left, and at the airport, yelling their inane questions with flashes going off so often it was like one steady bright light in my eyes. Even flanked by Emmett and Felix I felt exposed, and I worried constantly about Bella. I made Emmett promise to stay close while I was gone, before he left me at the gate. Jake had come highly recommended by Felix, and he and Bella had hit it off right away. The man was huge—almost as big as Felix and he looked bloody menacing with a scowl that said "back the fuck off," although his demeanor in private was far more affable. He too assured me no one would get near Bella while I was gone and she was under his protection. I'd been fairly sequestered since arriving in New York, but more concerned about Bella. She hadn't left the house since I'd departed and today was the first time she had gone out.

"I had Jake drive out with his windows open so they could see I wasn't in the car. So they hung around the gates."

"Wait. I thought you just said you went out?"

"I did. I was in the trunk. Jake let me out at the side entrance; I did my shopping and hid on the way home again. I chatted at him from the split seat in the back. He told me all about his wife and how they met."

I burst out laughing. "Whose idea was that?"

"Mine."

"Oh Beaker, you are bloody brilliant," I chuckled. "But that is rather dangerous. I don't think I like the idea of you rolling around in the trunk, unrestrained."

"You'd rather I be restrained, Edward?"

"I'd like to restrain you."

She giggled. "Hold that thought, Oscar."

"Oh, baby, I so will." Then I became serious. "They will catch on."

"I know. But I fooled them today and I'll handle tomorrow when tomorrow comes."

She still astonished me how coolly she was handling this pressure. "You are truly amazing," I praised her. "I can't believe how well you are coping with this mess."

"You're worth it."

God, I hoped she kept thinking so.

I heard my name and I sighed. "I have to go."

"I love you."

"Ah, Beaker, you have no idea how bloody much I love hearing you say that. I love you, too. I'll call you tonight."

I hung up, thinking. Jake had driven her and all went well, but I didn't want her in the trunk, as genius as that was today. And soon she would refuse to let him drive her, if she felt she could do it on her own— I knew this for a fact. She would want to start testing the waters. Her car was older, a Honda that had seen better days—it was also the base model. No tinted windows, no air conditioning. She said she didn't need it for errands. But things had changed. I didn't want her that exposed when she left the house.

My name was called again and I grabbed my phone, dialing Emmett.

It was time to upgrade Bella's ride.

And I had ninety grand burning a hole in my pocket to pay her back.

Perfect.


So not letting her win that game. He's been waiting... LOL.

Update on Monday. Thanks for reading!