Falling for a Dark Soul @tufano79
Chapter 21

Disclaimer: None of this mine, nor do I claim to be Stephenie Meyer. I just like to dabble in the playground that she created with Bella, Edward and her Twilight characters. No copyright infringement is intended.

We'll pick up with Bella with some citrusy action. Will it be a full lemon? Nope … Edward's getting better, but he still can't say those words out loud. He can whisper them. He can show them, but something is still holding him back. Plus, we'll head back to work and find out some more about James Holden.

Chapter Twenty-One

Edward

"Ooh, it's almost midnight!" Alice squealed. "Jasper, let's pour the champagne. Cyn, turn on the television."

We all stood up and we were handed noise makers, party hats and glasses of champagne. The countdown began on the screen at one minute until the New Year. I slid behind Bella and snaked my arms around her waist. She leaned against me, threading her fingers with mine. She turned in my arms, sliding her hands up my biceps and toying with my hair. "New Year, Edward … this is the first time I've had someone to kiss at midnight."

"Me, too, angel," I said.

"What about the ex-wife?" she asked.

"We went to events, but we never really kissed at midnight," I shrugged. "But, right now? There's no one else I want in my arms at midnight. This New Year's has been infinitely more special to me because I'm with people who I care about, especially you."

"Thirty seconds!" Emmett said, pulling Rose into his arms.

"This past year was the toughest of my life," Bella said, clinging to my shirt. "I'm hopeful that this year will be better. It already is … I'm with you, in your arms … Love is too small a word of what I feel for you."

"My Bella," I said, pulling her closer. We heard our friends begin the ten second countdown. I was lost in her eyes as our friends cheered Happy New Year. I kissed her and as they celebrated, I breathed against her mouth, "I love you, too." She must have heard me because her mouth was pressed to mine with fervor. I cradled her head, holding her close to my body. "Want to get out of here?"

"Yeah," she smiled. "We made our appearance. Now? I want to celebrate with you."

"We're in charge … no time table, angel," I said.

"Agreed, but you had your taste at Christmas. I want mine," she purred.

Bella

We said our hasty goodbyes. From the looks of it, we were not the only ones who were leaving. Rose and Emmett looked about ready to spontaneously combust. Quil and Embry were also eager to make their exit. Edward was stopped by Garrett and they exchanged phone numbers with promises to start training for the marathon by next weekend. Garrett also seemed interested in Cynthia, but I was eager to get back to my brownstone to get my taste of Edward.

We walked quickly to Edward's car. Neither one of us drank very much, but we were stumbling over each other and laughing. "We look drunk," I snickered.

"We do, but the sidewalks are awful," he said, his arm securely around my waist. "How can you walk in those heels?"

"They're thick," I answered, stumbling on a slick spot. "Holy crap."

"Don't fall, love. I don't want to spend New Year's in the ER," Edward chuckled.

"You think you're funny, Cullen," I deadpanned, taking another stumble until he swept me into his arms. "Don't drop me."

"Never, Bella," he said, gallantly carrying me the last few feet. We made it to his car. He helped me into the passenger seat, kissing me before closing the door. He got into the driver's seat, turning the car over and kissing me deeply while it warmed up.

"A cop is going to break this up, Edward," I panted against his mouth.

"You're just too irresistible," he said, caressing my cheek and gliding his fingers across my lips.

"Take me home, Edward," I commanded. "Please?"

With one more kiss, he pulled out onto the street and navigated the roads back to my brownstone. Shockingly enough, there was a parking spot right in front of my house. "I need to take Sam out, angel."

"I'm going to head inside and get more comfortable," I replied coyly.

He nodded slowly and we went inside. He hooked up Sam, who was sleeping underneath the Christmas tree. He seemed disgruntled and he begrudgingly went with Edward. I scratched behind his ears, walking inside. I left the Christmas tree lights on and I walked upstairs. I washed my face, but put on some lip gloss. I changed out of my outfit from the party and into a slinky navy-blue nightie. I slathered on some lotion while I waited for Edward.

"Bella, do you want the tree on?" Edward asked as he walked in my room. His green eyes popped out of his head. "Holy fuck, angel … you're gorgeous."

I lay back on the pillows, smiling at him with a giggle. "Oh, this old thing?" I'd purchased the nightie after the lovely day of pampering Edward treated me.

Edward chuckled, plucking the tag from the garbage can near the door. "You don't need to impress me, Bella. Trust me, I'm more than impressed, turned on and everything under the sun." He walked toward me, taking my hand and stood me up. Using my hand, he turned me around. His lips found the soft spot behind my ear. "You are beyond words, angel."

I finished turning around, sliding my hands up his chest. "Thank you, Edward," I murmured. We stared into each other's eyes as I gently scratched his scalp with my fingers. His hands ghosted over my skin, gliding over my spine and making me shiver. "You're in charge, baby. I want a taste … but …" I teased my mouth of his. His palms moved to my ass, squeezing gently. My hips were pressed forward and I could feel his growing arousal.

"I want to explore," he said, his voice quiet, unsure. "But, one request?"

"Anything, Edward," I vowed.

"Just don't hold me down …" he sighed, pressing my forehead to mine.

"I couldn't, even if I tried, Edward," I said. "You're much stronger than me."

"Please, Bella," he whispered. His plea was shattered.

I looked at him and there was fear in his eyes. "Hey, we don't have to do this. I want to share everything with you, but not at the cost of your safety and well-being." I traced my fingers underneath his eyes. "I don't want see this. I want you happy. I want you to know that you are so loved."

"I want to share everything with you, too, Bella. The fact that you're giving me a choice is beyond my comprehension," he breathed. "I know you won't hurt me. Not physically …" He hugged me so tightly, burying his nose into my neck. He seemed to calm down, picking me up easily. He lay us down. "Let's just go with the flow, Bella. I trust you. I always will, angel."

We came together, lips, mouths, tongues and hands. I slid my palms along his chest, feeling his muscles and warmth. I pulled away from him, staring into his eyes as I began to unbutton his shirt. He stared at me, his eyes soft and loving. Once his shirt was unbuttoned, my fingertips moved down his midline. His muscles rippled under my touch. I felt the rough skin from the scars from his foster families, the assholes who hurt the man that I loved.

We rolled so I was perched on his lap. I pushed his shirt over his shoulders. "Do you know how beautiful you are?" I asked him, gliding my hand across his collarbone. "And I'm not talking about your outward appearance, Edward. I'm talking about your heart, your soul, your everything."

"Most people wouldn't describe me as beautiful," he said, a broken smile ghosting over his features. "To them? I'm an asshole."

"Walls, baby," I argued. "They're coming down. I understand why you hid behind them for so many years. You had to harden your heart to protect yourself. You don't need to hide behind those walls with me, Edward."

"You're the first person to truly see me for me, Bella," Edward breathed. He nipped at my jaw. "The walls are down with you."

I smirked, kissing him deeply and gently pushed him back onto the pillows. I shimmied down his body, pressing open-mouthed kisses along his torso. I wanted to show him how much I loved him. That physical love wasn't about pain. It was about pleasure, love, trust. When I reached his jeans, I looked up at him. With deliberate movements, reached for his belt. His gaze was hungry. I arched a brow and worked on unbuckling his belt. I ran my hand along his length. It was straining against his zipper. "What do you want, Edward?"

"You," he answered simply.

I grinned, unbuttoning his jeans and easing them over his hips, tossing them off the bed. His boxer briefs were stretched to the limit. "All that for me, Edward?"

"Fuck, yes," he replied gruffly.

"Can I take these off?" I asked. He nodded jerkily and his Calvins joined his jeans on the floor. Fuck me, he's huge. I crawled up his body, kissing his mouth. His hands tangled into my hair, hungrily devouring my lips. I pulled back, smiling down at him. My fingers teased his pecs and I moved back down his muscular body. I settled between his legs. "I'm going to touch you, Edward. Okay?"

"Please, Bella," he breathed.

I ran my hands down the 'v' at his hips that led to his prominent erection. I kept my touches soft, gentle. His eyes stayed on me, rapt with attention. I traced the vein on the underside of his cock. His eyes rolled back, shuddering at my touch. I let him get used to my caresses before I added more, specifically my mouth. I waited until he was looking back at me, desire swirling in his green eyes. A pearl of pre-cum was leaking at the tip. I needed to taste it, taste him. He gave me a subtle nod. I kept my eyes on his as I wrapped my lips around the head of his cock. I swirled my tongue around it and he growled deeply, which made my panties flood with my own arousal.

It's not about you, tonight, Bella. It's about him. He deserves this. He needs to know that people can give freely without expecting something in return.

I wrapped my hand around the base of his cock and pressed him deeper into my mouth. I couldn't fit all of his length inside. He was easily the largest man I'd ever been with. Not that I had an abundance of sexual experience, but still. I bobbed my head, coating his length with my spit. Using the lubrication, I stroked what I couldn't fit into my mouth with my hand.

"So good," he groaned, his finger caressing my cheek. I eased up on my bobbing, focusing my attention on the head of his dick. "Fuck …"

"Tell me what you want, Edward," I purred. My lips were wet with my saliva and swollen from sucking his cock.

"Don't stop what you're doing, Bella. I've never felt so good, love," he panted.

With a wink, I sank my mouth back down over him. His hands fisted my bedspread. I reached for one of his hands, threading our fingers together. He relaxed as I guided his hand to my head. I wanted him to know that he was in control. He followed my lead and gathered my hair into a messy ponytail, guiding my head at the speed he wanted. I twisted my wrist and slurped around him, tasting his skin. My eyes never left his gaze. He was lost in the sensations of the blowjob I was giving him. His cheeks were pink and his mouth was hanging open with need. His dick twitched and I hummed around him. "Bella … I'm …"

I know, Grinchy.

I redoubled my efforts and he snarled as he tried to stave off his orgasm. With a soft nip to the underside of his length, he let go and streams of cum filled my mouth. I slowed down, swallowing him and tasting his release. He was salty, but a touch sweet and earthy. Releasing his softening cock with a pop, I sat up and dabbed my lips daintily. Edward looked at me, snickering quietly. "Really, angel?"

"I got you to laugh," I said, crawling to his side and snuggling next to him. I pressed a finger between his brows that was furrowed. "You're always so serious. Sex is supposed to be about pleasure, fun. If you can't laugh while being intimate, it's not truly intimacy."

"I guess that's true," he said.

"I mean, think about it. We're baring it all with each other and you're sticking your penis into my vag. Sounds will be made and we're trading bodily fluids," I explained, smirking at him cheekily. His lips quirked up into a crooked grin. "But, sharing that with someone you love? It can be … beyond words, beyond emotions."

"Have you ever …" he asked, his cheeks flaming. "Never mind. Stupid question."

"Never stupid, Edward. Ask me," I encouraged.

He got up and pulled on his boxer briefs. "I can't … not while I'm naked as a jaybird." He lay back down, holding me close to his too-warm body. "Have you ever made love with someone?"

"Have I had sex? Yes," I answered. "Bad sex, but sex. Made love? Not in the traditional sense. I thought I loved the guy who I lost my virginity to, but it was puppy love. However, what we just did, tonight and on Christmas, that was making love to me. We shared something with each other. I felt how much you loved me, even if you can't say the words yet. Tonight? I showed how much I loved you. I mean, I swallowed."

Edward blinked at me for a moment before laughing. I giggled with him, draping my arm over his belly. "Bella, you never say what I expect."

"I must love you because I never swallow," I grinned. "I have a New Year's Resolution."

"To swallow daily?" he quipped, waggling his brows.

"Hmmm, tempting," I deadpanned. "But, no. My New Year's Resolution is to help you see and feel the lighter side of things. When you laugh? It's beautiful. When I laugh? It sounds like a donkey braying."

"Stop it," he chided. "You have a gorgeous laugh and your nose wrinkles up so adorably."

"Just what a woman wants to hear that she has nose wrinkles," I grumbled. He kissed my nose, which caused me to giggle and for my nose to wrinkle. "Ass."

"Your ass," he smirked. "My resolution is to … build up the courage to say those three words, out loud and without fear of losing you."

"I heard you whisper them at midnight," I breathed.

"In here, I feel so much for you, Bella," he said, pressing his hand to his heart. "But, years of abuse is causing my brain to be a douche and won't let me say them out loud." He sat up and pulled me close to him, draping my legs on either side of his hips. "What I can say is that you are my life now, Bella. I don't want to go back to being what I was. I like who I am with you and with Katie."

"But, do you love yourself?" I pressed.

"I'm getting there," he answered after a beat. He stared at me, brushing his lips over mine three times. "Do you know what I mean with that?"

"I do, Edward," I smiled, taking his face in my hands. "I love you, too." I pressed my lips to his and slid between the sheets.

"Wait, what? We're done?" he asked, an adorable pout on his handsome face.

"Tonight was about you, Grinch," I said, gently tugging on his hand to come snuggle with me. "You've given me so much. I wanted to repay the favor. Besides, it's after two in the morning. I don't know about you, but I'm tired."

"But …" he said, sliding his arms around my body. I lay my head on his chest, draping my arm over his belly. "You don't fight fair."

"I never said I did," I snorted. "It was a wonderful night, Edward. The beginning of a wonderful New Year."

"You're right," he breathed. "But, it doesn't mean that I won't leave you hanging, angel."

"Promises, promises," I yawned. "Happy New Year, Edward."

"Happy New Year, angel," he said, tightening his hold on me. I pressed a kiss to his chest, letting my eyelids droop. Within the next breath, I was down for the count.

xx FFADS xx

The next morning, Edward did return the favor. I damn near exploded with his fingers and kisses. So did Edward and things got messy. So, we decided to take a shared shower, leading to more exploration and more messiness, but it was contained to the bathroom. We got dressed. Edward put on a pair of jeans and a hoodie while I wore some leggings and the button-down shirt he wore yesterday. Together, we made breakfast and enjoyed a cup of coffee on the sofa while we watched the Rose Bowl Parade.

Edward and I were curled up when his phone vibrated on the cocktail table. He picked it up, sliding his finger across. He smiled crookedly. "It looks like Katie had a blast with my parents." Over my shoulder, he showed me the pictures from last night and this morning.

"I hope that's sparkling grape juice," I snickered.

"Undoubtedly. When I lived with them until I went to college, they didn't drink alcohol or keep it in the house," Edward explained. "With my biological parents' history, it made the most sense for them to keep alcohol out of the home. Even now, they don't drink much. Mom loves wine and Dad loves scotch."

"But, you don't drink much, either," I said, looking at him.

"Not anymore," he sighed. "After I found out about Jacob and Tanya, I was a mess."

"Edward," I frowned.

"I found them in my office, fucking each other on my desk. Then, Tanya told me about the pregnancies that she terminated. I just wanted to forget. I wanted to be numb," he said. "I'd drink until I blacked out once I got home from work. I'd wake up, go to work and repeat until about nine months ago. I couldn't function and I took a week off from work, detoxed and I haven't been blackout drunk since then. I also adopted Sam around that time, too. He was a rescue. I focused on my dog and only drink occasionally."

Sam must have heard his name. His head popped up underneath the tree and his tail wagged. I giggled at his reaction. "Well, I'm glad that you stopped drinking so much. I get the desire to be numb. If it weren't for Katie, I probably be in the same boat after my parents' death," I said, snuggling back in his arms.

He kissed my temple and we looked at the pictures from Esme and Carlisle. "They invited us for dinner, angel. Do you want to go?"

"Sounds good. I do need to change," I said, looking at my casual outfit.

"Bella, you look perfect. I can guarantee you that my mom is dressed similarly," Edward chuckled. "In the Cullen household, New Year's Day was a day to be a bum."

"Okay, let me amend my statement. I need to put on a bra," I giggled.

"Don't put it on for me. If I had my way, you'd be naked all the time," he said, giving me a crooked grin.

"Ditto, Grinchy," I snorted, kissing his jaw. "Do you want to go now?"

"The longer we sit here, the more likely that I fall asleep," Edward chuckled.

"Give me ten minutes and we can go," I said, getting up and handing him his phone. I darted upstairs and changed into a sweater once I'd put on a bra. I tossed my hair up into a messy bun, putting on some simple makeup. After I put on my necklace, I went back downstairs with a pair of knee-high boots.

"You changed," Edward chuckled.

"As much as I loved being in your shirt, I didn't want to be a complete slacker," I quipped, throwing on a pair of socks and my boots.

"Regardless, you look beautiful, angel," he said. "Even wearing my shirt. Hell, seeing you in my clothes? That's hotter than the sexy little nightie you wore last night."

"Good to know," I grinned. "So, I can stop buying expensive lingerie?"

"I'm more than happy to buy you expensive lingerie," Edward purred, standing up and pulling me with him. He kissed me deeply, sliding his tongue between my lips. We broke apart when we both needed to breathe. "But, you wearing my shirt and nothing but my shirt? That's sexy as hell." He kissed my nose before giving me an Eskimo kiss. I giggled. "Come on … Mom's making tacos. They are the best, ever."

We got into his car and we drove to his parents' home. Katie was excited to see us and she prattled on about how she spent New Year's Eve with Nana Esme and Papa Carlisle. They played games, watched the Ball drop in Times Square at eleven and made resolutions, crafting them into something adorable to be framed and hung in Katie's bedroom.

While the chicken and beef cooked for the tacos, we played Pictionary. It was girls against boys. Despite Edward's graphic design expertise, he couldn't draw to save his life. Carlisle didn't have an artistic bone in his body, either. Edward was so lost when Carlisle tried to draw "The Tortoise and the Hare." It looked like a couch with bunny ears. So, Esme, Katie and I won easily.

After the game, Katie and Edward took Sam out for a walk. They came back inside and we settled into watch some football. Katie was curled up next to me, snoozing on my thigh. Edward was bouncing between the family room and the kitchen, helping his mom.

When dinner was ready, we ate in the kitchen. The tacos were delicious and a perfect dinner to have on New Year's Day. Esme served them with Spanish rice, homemade guacamole, and a choice of flour and corn tortillas. For dessert, we had baked churros and we left shortly after that. When we got back to my brownstone, Edward stayed for a few hours before he drove home.

It was back to the grind the following day.

xx FFADS xx

"My brain hurts," Alice groaned, rubbing her temples. "So many clients, so little time."

"When is Edward going to pull the trigger on letting us hire a junior advertising executive?" Jasper asked, finagling some graphics for a spa for their new website. "I love both of you, but I want a life."

"Your life is tied to mine, Jazzy," Alice snorted, tossing a wad of paper at her fiancé.

"And when was the last time we went out on a date, Mary Alice?" Jasper countered, arching a brow over his blue-light glasses.

"Good point," Alice muttered, sitting back in her chair.

"Tell me about it," I snorted. "I can't remember the last time that Edward and I had a date or I got home before the middle of the night. I'm ever so grateful that Esme has volunteered to pick up Katie after school since my friendship with Senna has dissipated since Katie's birthday."

"Do you miss Senna? Be honest," Alice asked.

"No. Senna was a bitch. Her daughter was cute, but Senna was very self-absorbed," I shrugged. "But, I want to spend time with my sister and my boyfriend. Not crawling home in the dark. Seriously, it's the middle of the night."

"It's not the middle of the night, Bells," Jasper teased. "It's just dark outside really early."

"I'm definitely suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder," Alice sighed. "Coming to work in the dark. Leaving in the dark. I want fucking sunshine. Do you think that Edward would let us splurge in one of those vitamin D lights?"

"Don't hold back, Alice," Edward quipped, leaning against the doorjamb. "I just got your email. Like you, I was also swamped with work. You know … I'm giving performance reviews?"

"Sorry, boss," Alice cringed. "Who's next?"

"I'm stopping for today because I'm done for the day," he huffed, sitting down next to me and taking my hand. "So, I just got your email about hiring a junior advertising executive. I know that you're strapped thin with the promotion of Emmett."

"Um, yeah," Alice sighed. "Look, we're a strong team and we've got a lot of clients. The quality of our product is suffering because we're all freaking exhausted."

"My apologies," Edward frowned. "If you want to put out feelers, go right ahead. I'm sorry for not getting back to you sooner. With the new hire of James Holden, finalizing Emmett's team and year-end reviews, I've been an awful boss."

"When is James starting?" Alice asked, her lips pursed.

"At the end of the month. He's finalizing his moving details from Las Vegas," Edward explained. "We had to have a conversation about expectations, but he's eager to start. He and Emmett got along very well. Anyway, I just wanted to check on you since I got your email about hiring a new junior executive."

"Before you go, we got our travel itinerary for the New Moon launch party in New York," Alice explained. "Do you want me to email you?"

"I believe I got it from Bella," Edward grinned.

"I sent it to him as soon as I got it from you," I explained to Alice. "You really are losing it, Ali."

"I'm not losing it. I've completely lost it," Alice snorted. "I'm getting some coffee and a snack. Anyone want?"

"I'm going with you, Ali," Jasper said, following her out of the office.

When the door closed, I arched a brow at Edward. "Are you okay? You've got that furrow, Grinch."

He ran his thumb over his nose and tried to smooth the furrow. "I shouldn't talk to you about this. Employee confidentiality and all," he sighed, sitting down. "But, I need to get something off my chest."

"Everything okay?"

"I had a really rough meeting," he grumbled. He looked at me, kissing my knuckles. "Riley is struggling with leading his team. It started with the debacle with Jared when Emmett was promoted and then the productivity has gone downhill over the course of the rest of last year. When I brought this up at his review, he got all huffy and defensive. I get it. No one likes to hear that they're not doing well in their job, but there's an appropriate way to take criticism. Throwing a hissy fit is not one of them."

"Yikes," I grimaced. "How old is he?"

"Riley is older than me. I think he's fifteen years older. Anyway, his review was not well-received and he's on probation as team leader. He didn't like that and he stomped out of my office," Edward snorted. He looked at me. "I trust you to be discreet about this, right?"

"Always, Edward. I would never betray your trust that way," I smiled. "I'd love to talk more, but I do have a teleconference with Victoria to go over plans for the party at Bergdorf's. Do you want to come over tonight for dinner?"

"That's exactly what the doctor ordered," he sighed. "Do you want me to bring anything?"

"I'm certain Katie would love to see Sam," I suggested. He grinned and nodded, ducking out of the office.

The rest of the afternoon slinked by. The meeting with Victoria and Laurent went well, solidifying details with Bergdorf's event. Once that was done, Alice and I worked on another campaign for a nail polish company before working on the posting for a junior advertising executive.

That night, after having dinner with me and Katie, Edward told me more about his meeting with Riley and it sounded like Riley was questioning Edward's leadership. Riley brought up Edward's previous behavior with his divorce and his anger toward Jacob, the man who's fucked Edward's ex-wife.

"Speaking of ex-wife, I got this letter from her," Edward said, taking out an envelope from his pocket. We were curled up on the couch after we put Katie to bed.

"Have you read it?" I asked.

"I'm afraid to," he answered. "She raked me over the coals, Bella. What could she have to say that would change what she did to me?"

"She could apologize," I said. He scowled at the envelope, twisting it in his hands. "Do you want me to read it?"

"I don't know," he sighed, tearing into the envelope. He twisted his lips, pulling out the letter. He stared at it, shaking his head. "Yes, please read it, Bella."

"Out loud?" He nodded, pulling me into his lap. I looked at the letter, keeping my face impassive at the loopy, immature handwriting. "'Dear Edward' …"


Dear Edward,

I know that this is long overdue and there is simply no way for me to take away the hurt and betrayal I gave you. The words 'I'm sorry' seem like it's too small for what happened between us. Unfortunately, that's the best I can do.

I have a problem. I've always had a problem. I didn't have a difficult life. I just used drugs and alcohol to numb the voices in my head. I didn't realize it at the time, but now I know that I have a mental illness. I am a paranoid schizophrenic, with oppositional defiance disorder. I began to self-medicate because I didn't know if I could tell my parents. They'd think I was crazy.

I heard voices who told me to do bad shit.

In retrospect, I was crazy. Now, I know that I'm sick and on the correct medications to help me.

It started with alcohol when I was in middle school. I'd get drunk just to get through the day. In high school, I moved to pot and pills, prescriptions and otherwise. When I got to college, my drug habit slowed because I fueled my addiction with sex. I tried to stop. I went to rehab and I got clean.

That's when I met you … and the voices came back.

At first, I was happy. You were so kind and loving. You treated to me right for the first time. When you proposed, I was over the moon. We got married and I thought I didn't need the pills, the drugs, the other men. But, I fell off the wagon, trying to silence the voices.

It doesn't excuse what I did to you.

I should never have cheated on you, especially with Jacob, who was your closest friend. I should have never broken your heart by taking your choice away when it came to the pregnancies. I should have never said yes when you proposed to me … it would have saved you so much heart-ache.

Part of my path to sobriety is to make amends for what happened between us. I am truly sorry for hurting you. I was so selfish and awful to you. You deserve so much more, Edward …

I may have been high, drunk or both, but I saw how much pain you were in. I heard your night terrors, listening to the horrific memories from your past. You never told me and I understand you didn't trust me with that part of your history. I know you never loved me; how you could never say those three words. I know that all you wanted in your life was family of your own and I tore that away from you with my own selfishness.

I continued to be selfish, even after we divorced.

I saw how much I hurt you when I saw you at the cosmetics launch. The anger and betrayal in your eyes was apparent when you saw me with Laurent. I also saw the way you looked at your date, Bella. You never looked at me like that. From your looks, you were ready to run in front of a bullet for her. It was after that I knew that I had to apologize for the horrible things I'd done to you and I needed to give you a chance to truly be happy.

You love her. Even a blind man could see how much you love her.

Probably more than that … you admire her.

You may not be able to say those words to her, Edward, but you should and you should keep her. She'll give you everything you deserve.

After this, you won't hear from me again. I won't hurt you anymore with my selfishness. I'm moving to live with my sister in California. She's the only one who is willing to help me with my recovery. I'd hurt too many with my actions.

All I have to blame for that is myself …

Edward, be happy … always.

And, again, I'm so fucking sorry, for everything.

All the best,

Tanya Denali


"Did you know about her diagnosis?" I asked, folding the letter.

Edward shook his head, his brows pulled together. "Well," he said, taking the letter and putting it on the cocktail table. Holding me to his chest, he blew out a shaky breath. "I don't know what to think about what she said."

"I think you need to let this settle with you," I suggested. "That letter was loaded …"

"You're telling me," he deadpanned. "I never knew that she heard my night terrors."

"You haven't had any when you've spent the night here," I whispered, brushing my fingers through his unruly hair. "I wonder why that is?"

"It's because I'm with you," he breathed. The intensity of his stare caught me off guard. "I never felt this way about anyone. I also never realized how I looked at you. My mom sent me a few photos from Christmas. It was something so special …" He nuzzled my neck, pressing a soft kiss behind my ear. Barely a whisper, his voice caressed over me, "I do love you."

"Edward," I sobbed, taking his face and staring in his yes. "I … I … love you so much."

"Don't cry, angel," he said, brushing tears away. "I didn't want to make you cry."

"Happy tears," I sniffled. "This is huge, Edward."

He blushed and nodded. "It's a step, Bella. I'm beginning to realize that I didn't deserve all that happened to me when I was a kid and that I'm worthy of this, of happiness and love," he said, giving me his crooked grin. Leaning forward, he pressed his lips to mine. "I do need to let what Tanya said settle with me. I'm grateful I won't have to see her again because she was draining, to be perfectly honest. I also need to revel in our relationship. I'm not perfect, Bella. I'm still an asshole. I'm moody and temperamental. I also struggle with trust. Probably, I always will." He pressed his forehead to mine, holding me close to his body. "I want to stay …"

"You can," I urged, scratching his scalp.

"Unfortunately, though, I can't. I have a teleconference meeting scheduled in three hours with a prospective client in Taiwan," he grumbled. "I do not want to keep you up. I know you're working remotely tomorrow. I can take Sam back with me after I get done with work?"

"Okay," I sighed. "But, this weekend? You're spending the night, Edward. I've missed cuddling with you."

"You're torturing me, Bella," he groaned, standing up and frowning. "Now, I just want curl up and cuddle with you. Fuck my call with this Taiwanese tech company."

"This weekend, Grinch," I said. "All weekend, we'll snuggle, cuddle and be that couple. The obnoxious couple that can't keep their hands to themselves."

He grinned crookedly, kissing me swiftly. "It's a date." He put on his coat, looking at me shyly. "Bella?"

"Hmmm?"

"I love you," he whispered, pulling me into his arms. I smiled against his chest, gripping his coat. "Sleep well, angel."

"I love you, too," I breathed. With one more deep kiss, he left my house and my heart felt light. All because of a moody, temperamental Grinch of mine, who's heart had grown exponentially since I've met him. My broken, but beautiful dark soul …

Who loved me.

xx FFADS xx

The Tuesday after the Super Bowl, we all filed into the cafeteria for a staff meeting. I was yawning since Edward and I enjoyed a little adult fun time after the game at my brownstone while Katie hung out with Alice and Cynthia's parents with Addy and Kamryn. Edward, being the nice boss, gave us all the option to work remotely on Monday.

MAC was virtually deserted on Monday after the Super Bowl.

Not much work was accomplished.

Edward and me, included.

His 'work' included kissing me and making me come with his fingers and tongue as many times as humanly possible. We'd yet to make love, but we were very comfortable with each other, trusting each other. Before we made love, I wanted to get back on birth control and Edward wanted to get a clean bill of health since he was still paranoid from his ex-wife's betrayal.

I had a doctor's appointment on Thursday with Rose's OB/GYN and Edward was waiting for his results.

"Staff meetings suck," Jasper grumbled, putting his head down on the table. "We have to show up early for a meeting that could be done over an email."

"It's okay, Jazzy," Alice said soothingly, petting his head. She mouthed to me, "He's still hung over."

I rolled my eyes, nodding in agreement. I was also 'hung over', but not from alcohol. From orgasms. My clit was still quivering.

"Good morning, ladies and gentlemen," Edward said, breezing into the cafeteria. He was wearing a crisp grey suit with a burgundy tie. "It looks like some of you still haven't recovered from Sunday."

"Whoever created the shot game for the commercials? They should be … ugh," Embry groaned. "I think I'm still drunk."

"I found it on the internet," Alice chuckled. "You didn't need to take a shot every time, Embry."

"Yes, we did," Embry snorted. "It was a point of pride. Quil had to carry me home."

"I'm glad that you got back safely," Edward smiled. "Also, thank you to Sue for making arrangements with a local limo service to provide rides back to the city if you were overserved. And, thank you to Emmett for reserving a bank of rooms for the folks who lived too far away, along with shuttle service. These team building activities are meant to be fun and we don't want anyone to get hurt because of drinking and driving. My math teacher in high school used to say this on Fridays … 'Safe, Sane and Legal.' It's a tenet I live by now.

"Anyway, this meeting will be pretty short. We're here to introduce two new members of the MAC family. One was introduced on Sunday. Alice, I'll pass the baton to you since he's a part of your team," he grinned, gesturing to our table.

"Thanks, Edward," Alice said, standing up. "With the decision to create a ninth team and the promotion of Emmett McCarty, my team has been worked to the bone. So, we put out a posting for a junior advertising executive. After a couple of rounds of interviews, David Overman will be joining us. He's coming from a small company in Milwaukee that unfortunately closed due to a mismanagement of funds. David got his undergrad from University of Texas at Austin, graduating with honors. He started his master's degree but had to put a stop to it because of the agency closing where he worked." She sat down, but was poked by Jasper, who still had his head down. "Oh, and one more thing. David went to high school with Jasper's younger brother, Jackson … so, we've got a six-degrees of separation type thing going on. Everyone, welcome David!"

David, a man with black hair and thick brows, stood up and waved at the crowd. We all liked him instantly. He had a go-getter attitude and was not afraid to get his hands dirty.

"David, it's a pleasure to have you join our family," Edward grinned. "I'm certain you'll fit in with your team effortlessly."

"Looking forward to it," David nodded, smiling shyly.

"Next up is Emmett," Edward said, gesturing to our former team member.

"Thanks, boss man," Emmett boomed. "The ninth team is now complete. In addition to Sophie, my senior advertising executive and Marley, the junior advertising executive, we have rounded out our little pod with James Holden. James will be our graphic designer. James is coming from Las Vegas, where he'd redesigned the Wynn website and created several famous logos and websites, like for Summit Movies, Goose Creek Candles and Universal Studios. James got his degree from California Institute of the Arts, with a master's degree in business management from UNLV. We're happy to have our completed team. With that, we're already working on several new campaigns for roll out in the spring."

"Thank you for the opportunity," James said, his voice deep, but slimy.

He was as tall as Emmett, but he had dark brown hair and squinty eyes, hidden behind a pair of fashionable frames. At first glance, James took care of his body, with muscles rippling underneath his hipster cardigan and pair of grey jeans. His eyes swept over the cafeteria, landing on me. He licked his lips, nodding at me slowly.

I got a creepy vibe from him. My mom used to say that I was good judge of character. If I didn't like someone, they weren't worth knowing.

I did not like James.

"That's it from me," Edward announced. "James, you do need to fill out some paperwork to get you into our system. You can go with Rose to do that. David, you're good to go. Everyone else, I'll pop around to see how everyone is doing. Have a great day!"

Everyone shuffled out and Alice stayed back, watching as James left with Rose. "You look like you're sucking on a sour lemon," David said. "Do you not like James?"

Alice and I replied, "He's creepy."

"He may be creepy," Jasper yawned, "but, he's a fucking amazing designer. I aspire to be as talented as him."

"I've met him before," Alice explained. "So did Jasper … granted, it may have been the location or whatever, but something about him rubs me the wrong way. I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. There is no denying his talent, but talent can only do so much. I'm glad he's on Emmett's team and not ours." She got up and smoothed her skirt. "We've got a planning session for what needs to get done this week. We were all hungover and slackers on Monday. We have less time to get shit done."

"But, one extra person," I quipped, smirking at David.

"So, I'm your bitch," he chuckled.

"Essentially, yes," Alice nodded. "But, we love our bitch."

"This bitch loves you back," David grinned.

"We're going to get along perfectly," I sang as we walked back to our office. "Welcome to the family, David."

A/N: We did a bit of a time jump. We went from New Year's Eve until the first couple days of February. We also met two new characters, David Overman, rounding Alice's team and James Holden, graphic designer for his team. Pictures of those two characters will be on my blog.

Edward also whispered those three magical little words … he really does love his angel. Hates his ex-wife … what did you think of her letter?

Up next will be Valentine's Day, the trip to New York City for the New Moon launch at Bergdorfs and perhaps, a little something-something.

Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed this chapter. All pictures are found on my blog. I'm also on FB: Tufano79's Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. Twitter, too: tufano79. Leave me your thoughts!

I'm auctioning off a Bella and Edward one-shot for Ashley's Auction. The story obviously to be determined by the winning bidder. I will write pretty much anything. Information about the auction is in my group and on my blog. Please consider bidding on my one-shot for Ashley!

Here's some information:

After eight days in and out of the hospital for pain, Ashley finally spoke to a surgeon and it was decided that she needs to have her gallbladder removed, and because of an underlying issue, she will also need exploratory surgery. Ashley's finances have been exhausted with all the trips to the ER, not just in the last week, but the countless visits over the past year due to flare-ups.

We're shooting for a goal of $5000, which I know is a lot, especially in these times. Ashley is a valued member of our fandom, and fandom takes care of their own.

A GoFundMe is set up ...

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