Solace @missliss15
Chapter 12

—January 2022—

EPOV

"I think I could kiss you for days and never grow tired of it." I felt her smile as she murmured against my lips.

I pulled back, returning her smile. "For days? That sounds mighty nice to me." I knew what we were doing, at least in the eyes of my community and church, was beyond wrong. But I also knew what I was feeling in my heart. I was in love with the woman who was standing in front of me, and for that I wouldn't apologize. "Your cheeks may not agree, though." I smoothed my thumb along the areas where my beard had agitated her skin.

"Worth it," she breathed before slipping her fingers into my hair and attaching her mouth to mine once more. The thoughts that floated through my mind were far from pure as our kiss grew deeper. Bella continued to make those soft little sighs that spurred me on. I let my hands drift to her waist, my fingers squeezing the soft flesh there. She nipped at my bottom lip, and a sigh of my own slipped out. I needed to pull back, but she was way more tempting than any woman should be.

She pressed herself closer to me, and I knew she could feel my obvious arousal. I was only a man, and she was a beautiful woman for whom I had powerful feelings. It was a natural reaction, but I also knew how easy it would be to lose control with her. I pulled back, shifting my hips away from her, and finding the strength to put some space between us.

"You are so sweet." I pressed a kiss to her cheek before turning from her and walking over to the stall where Midnight was.

She stuffed her hands in her pockets, following behind me. "I'm sorry, I know I got carried away."

"I don't mind, I just can't let myself lose control with you."

She let out a heavy sigh. "I understand."

"Do you?" I turned back toward her, slipping a finger under her chin, bringing her gaze up to mine. "It's not that I don't want to. I have desires for you."

Her cheeks flushed, and she pulled her lip between her teeth, resting a hand on my chest. I blew out a rough breath. Even the slightest touch from her ignited a fire in me. "I understand—" The side door of the barn creaked open, cutting her off.

"Edward?"

I looked up as Jasper called my name.

Bella's eyes widened as she pulled her hand off my chest, taking a step back. I chuckled at her reaction, knowing Jasper was the least of our worries.

I smiled as I shouted toward the front of the barn. "In the back!" Bella looked like she was hoping the earth would open up and swallow her. "It'll be fine," I whispered, pressing a kiss to her forehead.

Jasper made his way to where we were, his hat tucked under this arm. "I passed by your house and saw it was fully dark, so I thought I might find you here." His eyes darted between Bella and me. "Oh, I didn't realize you had... company."a smile forming on his lips as he turned fully to Bella. "Forgive me, miss, I'm Jasper Whitlock."

Bella gave him an awkward wave. "Hi, I'm—"

"Bella Swan. Yes, I know. You've caused quite the stir in the Cullen family."

"Jasper!" I hissed at him, grabbing Bella's hand to soothe her. Jasper glanced at our interlocked fingers, raising an eyebrow.

"Edward, you know me better than that. I was just teasing, but you can't deny there's been a bit of an uproar. People saw you with Bella at the market, and your brother isn't exactly quiet about the conversation you had with him. They're speculating that you'll leave the order."

"Now isn't the time to talk about such things."

"So, it's true then?"

"Jah, there's some truth to it." I sighed. "But do we really need to speak of this now?"

"No time like the present." He shrugged. "Is there a reason we shouldn't be speaking in front of Bella?"

"No, I just—"

"I think leaving would be the best decision you could ever make," he told me bluntly. It definitely wasn't what I expected him to say. "I have eyes, Edward, and I'd like to think I know you better than that brother of yours. He can't see beyond his own nose. You've been miserable for years now, just going through the motions, not living as you should. And how could we expect you to? You lost your heart when your wife passed. I have seen little of you lately, but what I see right now..." He gestured between me and Bella. "You deserve happiness. You'll always be welcome in my home and always have my business."

"Thank you, Jasper. It's not a decision I'm making lightly."

"As it shouldn't be, but just make sure you think about what I've said. I'll be going now, I just wanted to check on you. It was a pleasure to meet you, Bella. Take care of each other." He turned, making his way back out before she could respond.

"I'm thinking about talking to the bishop soon," I told her as I tucked her into her car.

"What?" she shouted. "You can't just spring something like that on me as I'm walking out the door! Edward, you leaving worries me."

"I can see that. Will you tell me why?"

"What if we don't work out? I don't want you making such a life-altering decision only to regret it later."

I walked around the car, slipping into the passenger side. We definitely had more to talk about than I'd realized. "I don't see us not working out, Bella. I've been in love before. I know we've not been together long, but I'm sure what I feel for you is love. Now, that being said, this decision isn't about you. Not entirely, at least. It's been on my mind for quite some time. I don't fit here any longer. I'm not the same man I was three years ago. I'm not even the same man I was three months ago."

Her eyes were wide, and slightly dazed. "You love me?"

I chuckled. "Is that all you heard out of everything I told you?"

"No, I heard everything you said, that just surprised me. I think I love you, too."

"Well, I'm mighty glad to hear you say that." I smiled. "But tell me when you know for sure." I pressed a kiss to her lips before climbing out of the car. "You need to get home; it's late."

"Goodnight, Edward."

I stood there, watching as she backed onto the road. I wished we never had to be apart, and I knew one day we wouldn't have to be. But to achieve that, I needed to speak with the bishop soon.

I'm dealing with a lot of anxiety today and I'm trying to distract myself. You get an extra chapter this week because of it, so give me lots of reviews to read while I try to cope. Love you guys.

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