Falling for a Dark Soul @tufano79
Chapter 28

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.

Who’s ready for those good things? Citrus alert next chapter. Also … yeah … buckle up.

Chapter Twenty-Eight

Edward

I could barely keep my eyes off Bella. She was laughing and sitting on the beach, looking like an absolute goddess. Her skin practically glowed in the ethereal flickering of the flames inside the fire pit. “Dude, you’re drooling over your girl,” Jasper teased.

“It’s been a long couple of weeks and we haven’t had much alone time,” I answered honestly. “Plus, the situation with …” I nodded toward James. He was laughing with Riley, Paul and Jared.

“I don’t trust him,” Jasper shrugged. “Bella did say that he’s been a consummate professional with this joint venture with that clothing line.”

“I don’t either, but we have to follow everything by the book, Jasper,” I said quietly. “He’s on probation and one more mistake, he’s out. However, she told me the same. She doesn’t like him, but she respects him as a businessman. That’s what makes this whole situation difficult. It’s the revenue we’re earning from Emmett’s team that is allowing the company the flexibility to have a four-day work week this summer.”

“Talk about a rock and a hard place,” Jasper mumbled.

“Exactly,” I sighed. I checked my watch. “I’m going to pay the bill and have the owner close up the bar.”

“This was a great barbecue. We should make it a tradition,” he said.

“Then, it’s good that I already reserved this place for next year, hmmm?” I laughed, dusting off my shorts. Jasper held up his beer with a lazy grin and I walked into the restaurant. Waving down the owner, I looked at the final bill. I used my corporate card to pay for the food and my personal card to pay for the alcohol. Signing the slips, I pocketed the receipts and walked back out to the beach. Almost everyone was gone or getting ready to leave. I found Bella talking to Alice and Rosalie. “You okay, angel?”

“I’m a little drunk and a lot horny,” she giggled.

“Are we good here?” Rose asked, smiling indulgently at my drunk girlfriend.

“I just paid the bill,” I answered.

“You go, Edward,” Rose said. “Emmett, Alice, Jasper and I can clean this up.”

“And, we’ll grab the leftovers,” Alice added.

I arched a brow at them, but looked at Bella who was staring at me intently. “Thank you. Both of you,” I nodded, holding my hand out to Bella. She took it, sliding her arms around my neck. “Come on, angel … we have a date …”

“With our bed,” she said. I groaned, guiding us to my SUV and helping her into the front seat. I waved as I got into the driver’s seat, heading toward Bella’s brownstone. She was staring at me as I navigated my way through the streets of Chicago, parking on her street.

“You okay, Bella?” I asked, caressing her soft cheek. Her skin was slightly pink from the sun and warm under my fingers.

“I just love you,” she murmured, capturing my hand and kissing my palm.

“I love you, too, angel,” I breathed. “Come on. We’re back home.” Bella nodded lazily, not really making any indication that she was going to move. I leaned over, kissing her and I got out of the car. I helped her out of the passenger seat, locking the car and walking up the steps to her brownstone. Once inside, Bella walked to the couch. She threw off her dress, revealing her nearly naked body. It was off the shoulder and she did not wear a bra. Before she sat down, she kicked off her panties, lounging on the couch. One leg was propped up and the other was draped over the side. “You are a temptress, Bella.”

“I said it earlier, Grinch. It’s been too long,” she said, cupping her breasts and twisting her nipples. I watched her as she leaned back and one of her hands moved to pussy. She circled her erect clit with a seductive smirk on her face. “Are you going to take advantage of your naked, horny girlfriend offering herself up to you?”

“I’m enjoying the show,” I said, stripping out of my polo shirt. “I like seeing you play with your body, Bella. What gives you pleasure?”

“You,” she answered simply, licking her fingers before putting them back between her legs. “I’m so wet for you …”

“I can see that,” I breathed, sitting down on the couch and watching her fingers tease her clit. “Your pussy is swollen for me, Bella.”

“I want your cock,” she whimpered, slipping her fingers inside. She moaned, rolling her hips and squeezing her breast. “Edward, please?”

“What about my tongue?” I asked.

“Anything,” she panted. I moved her and spread her legs wide. Her earthy musk hit me and I growled lowly before ran my tongue along the length of her slit. Her flavor exploded in my mouth. “Fuck!”

I devoured her pussy, lost in her sounds, her scent, her flavor … She was the sexiest, most enticing woman on the planet.

After she came, chanting my name, I pulled my mouth away from her sex and caged her with my arms. She grabbed my neck, kissing my lips and sucking her essence off my tongue. Her hands made quick work of my shorts and boxer briefs, twisting our bodies so I was seated on the couch. She stared at me as her body rocked over my erection. “I love you, Edward,” she whispered.

“I love you so much, angel,” I breathed, grasping my cock and teasing her folds. She shuddered before she sank down over my length. “God, it has been way to fucking long. You’re so fucking tight, Bella.”

“And you’re huge,” she grinned, rocking her body over me. “Every inch is filled with you, Edward.” She leaned forward, capturing my mouth. We moved together as one, sharing one body and sharing our love. My fingers glided along her back, feeling her smooth, damp skin. Her fingers were tangled in my sweaty hair. The sound of our kisses and panting filled the room. I moved my hands down her back, taking purchase on her ass. I pressed harder on my cock, earning me a gasp of pleasure. “Fuck … Edward …”

“Yes, you’re fucking Edward,” I growled against her mouth, squeezing her ass as her muscles clenched around me. “Bella … feeling you around me, hearing your whimpers and tasting you …”

“I know, baby,” she moaned, staring at me as her movements slowed. “In all my life, I never realized that this level of love could be achieved. My heart is bursting with it for you.” She moved one my hands from her ass to her breast, right above her frantically beating heart. I kissed her, trying to stave off my building orgasm. I could feel my balls tightening and my stomach clenching. “Edward … I’m …” she panted. “God, harder!”

I held her above me, slouching a bit so I could thrust into her. My girl wanted it harder. I’d gladly give it to her harder. I did not want her to be unsatisfied. She shuddered above me, her muscles clenching around my cock. Her arousal covered my cock making it easy to slide within her. “Bella,” I breathed. “I’m going to come.”

“In me,” she pleaded. “I want to be yours.”

“Always,” I growled, letting my pleasure wash over me in waves. My cock twitched, spilling inside Bella and making her mine. Again. Eventually, our bodies slowed down and our kisses grew less frenetic. “I didn’t hurt you, did I?”

“No, Edward. You always take care of me,” she said sleepily, snuggling close to me.

As I slipped out of her, I pouted at the loss of the warmth around me. “Come on, baby. We should go upstairs.”

“Too tired,” she mumbled. “You fucked the energy out of me.”

I laughed, kissing her forehead. “Can you hold on, then?”

“Hmmm, I suppose,” she giggled, latching her arms and legs around my body. I easily lifted her and carried her up to her bedroom. I put on her the bed and dashed into the bathroom for a washcloth. I carefully wiped between her legs, removing my release from her thighs. “You’re staying, right? You haven’t spent the night since our fight about … you know who. I’m not counting the field trip because we both crashed.”

I chuckled. “I’m staying, angel. Sam is with my parents and I’ll pick him up tomorrow. I’ve missed being with you.”

“Then, why did you stay away?” she asked, her brow furrowing.

“I’ll tell you tomorrow, love. After we both sleep off the sun and booze from the barbecue, okay?” I said, sliding in the cool sheets.

“Promish?” Bella asked, pressing her cheek against the pillow and muffling her voice.

“Scouts honor,” I breathed.

“Can you make love to me some more?” she grinned, her eyes glazed over and her words slurring. My girlfriend was sloshed.

“I’m not a spring chicken, Bella and you’re practically catatonic,” I snickered. “Or drunk.”

“I’m definitely drunk, but I’m still horny. I guess I can take a raincheck,” she sighed, moving to curl up on my chest. “Love you, Grinchy.”

“Love you more, angel,” I replied.

xx FFADS xx

Bella moaned, burrowing closer to my chest. I tightened my arms around her body. My eyes were still closed as I gently scratched her back. “My head hurts,” she whimpered.

“Do you want some medicine?” I asked. She nodded, moving closer and draping her leg over mine. I chuckled quietly. “Bella, if you want me to get some medicine for you, I need to get up.”

“In a little bit. Your back scratching feels really nice,” she mumbled.

I pressed my lips to her forehead, idly tracing patterns on her back. She eventually drifted off again until her phone rang on the nightstand. Bella didn’t stir as I reached over her to answer the phone. I swiped my finger across the screen, pressing the phone to my ear. “Hello?”

“Edward? Hi, it’s Cynthia,” she said.

“Hey, Cynthia. What’s up?” I asked.

“Katie is eager to go swimming, but she won’t go in the water without Bella,” she laughed anxiously.

“Um, Bella’s still asleep, but perhaps we can get there in an hour?” I answered. “She had a lot to drink yesterday and she’s sleeping off a hangover.”

“Don’t rush, then,” Cynthia snickered. “I’m definitely feeling the alcohol this morning as well. Thank goodness for Garrett coming when he did, driving us back. I’m sorry for calling so early. Katie wouldn’t stop nagging, so I said I’d check. I checked, now we can move on with life. Would you like to come? You’re more than welcome.”

“I’ll let you know,” I said. “Talk to you later, Cynthia. Thanks for watching Katie.”

“She’s a pleasure. Later,” she sang before ending the call.

“What did Cynthia want?” Bella mumbled against my shoulder.

“Katie wants to go swimming but won’t get in the water without you,” I answered.

“Makes sense. Katie is part fish, but she needs to be eased in. I’m her floatie,” Bella yawned, stretching her body. “Shower with me?”

I nodded, kissing her lips and following her into the bathroom. Our shower was playful, filled with kisses and teasing touches. After we were done, Bella kicked me out so she could finish getting ready. I pulled on my shorts, heading downstairs to make some breakfast for us. I went with something simple, toasting bagels and cutting up fresh fruit. Bella came down a few moments later with her hair piled on her head in a messy bun. I could see bikini strings underneath her summer dress. “Feel better, angel?”

“I feel human,” she snorted, sitting down and pouring herself a cup of coffee. “I’m sorry if I was sloppy last night. I don’t drink. I really don’t, but those White Claws went down smooth.”

“You were horny,” I quipped, pushing a plate with a bagel toward her.

“I remember that,” she smirked. “Couch sex has its merits.”

“When we’re home alone,” I chuckled. “Imagine if Katie was here?”

“She’d be scarred. Though, she did walk in on Mom and Phil several times. She was blissfully unaware as …” Bella shuddered. She took a sip of her coffee. “Do you want to come with me to Cynthia’s?”

“I’m not a strong swimmer,” I answered, my face flaming. Her brows furrowed, confused by my reaction. “I didn’t like to get in the water without a shirt. My body is littered with scars, angel. I don’t like people to see them.”

“Then, wear a shirt,” she said simply. “You’re pale enough to need it. Just say you have a sensitivity to sun and you need extra protection. Phil actually had a long-sleeved shirt he wore in the water because he was more pale than you. I may still have it, Edward.”

“Okay,” I nodded.

“Let me go find it. I’ll be right back,” she said, kissing my cheek and going back upstairs. She came back down a few moments later with a navy blue swim shirt. “Katie liked this because it was the same color of her daddy’s eyes. She and Phil share that trait.”

“Thank you for sharing this with me. If it works out, I’ll get one of my own and you can have this back,” I said. Bella gave me a warm smile, nodding. We finished eating breakfast and locked up the house after getting towels for the pool. We swung by my place so I could change into my swim trunks and swipe a fresh set of clothes.

Bella gave me directions to Cynthia’s. She lived in Glenview, just outside of the city. We also saw that Alice and Jasper were there, along Cynthia’s new boyfriend, Garrett. We’d become close as he trained for the Chicago Marathon with me, meeting up twice a week for a jog along the lake front. Every so often, on shorter run days, Jasper would join us. He couldn’t run a marathon due to an old soccer injury, but he liked to stay active.

The afternoon was spent in the pool. Katie, once Bella had arrived, jumped in and stayed in the water for most of the day. The only time she got out was when she ate lunch and when she was sprayed down with sunscreen. She enjoyed every moment in the water, laughing and playing with Kamryn, Addy and some other neighbor kids. She even managed to get me in the water, showing me how to dog paddle.

“You should take lessons with me, Edward,” she said, swimming around me. “I took lessons with my Daddy because he didn’t swim either. We had so much fun. Well, not as fun as this. Our pool was inside because Forks is always rainy and cold. I like swimming in the sun.”

“Let me check it out, Little One,” I smiled. “If we’ve got a mermaid in our midst, I should learn to swim.”

“Yay!” she sang.

We left shortly after that, picking up some dinner from Panera Bread. I ate with Bella and Katie, but I left to pick up Sammy. He was excited to see me. I scrubbed behind his ears once we got back to my condo. I changed into some workout gear and decided to take him for run.

When I got back, I showered. I sent Bella a text, checking on her. She responded back that she was exhausted from the hangover and being in the sun all day for the past two days. We chatted for a few more moments before the sun caught up with me. Before we ended our texts, Bella asked if I could come to the photoshoot for the clothing line. I checked my schedule and I was available. Getting out of the office for the day seemed like a good thing. Plus, it would give me a chance to meet Jane and Eric Yorkie as well as check up on James and his behavior.

He’d been flying under the radar and I wanted to see if those changes were authentic. A leopard can’t change its spots, but it can camouflage himself, striking when you’re least expecting it.

Let’s just say, I’m waiting for him to strike.

Call it my inner-pessimist rearing his ugly fucking head.

A couple of days later, I was in Lincoln Park at the break of dawn. I was carrying a tray of coffee for Jane, Emmett, Bella and James. I made my way through the maze of lights, computer equipment, makeup artists, models and photographers. “Boss man,” Emmett boomed. “I’m surprised to see you here.” He took his cup of coffee, answering his cell phone.

“I’ve heard some amazing things and I wanted to meet the illustrious Jane,” I grin. “I hope you like coffee?”

“I love it. Thank you,” she grinned, taking the proffered cup. “This is my third cup and I know I’ll be needing a lot more since we got here at three this morning.”

“Coffee is essential for life,” Bella breathed. I handed her a cup and she gave me a grateful look. “Thank you, Edward. You are the best.” She took a sip, darting away to check on the models.

“She’s been running around like chicken with her head cut off,” Emmett said.

“Bella’s a perfectionist,” I agreed. “It’s why she’s so amazing at her job.”

“She missed her calling as a photographer,” James murmured. “Look at these test shots she took.” I took the iPad from him. The photos were absolutely beautiful of the models in the luxurious clothes in the conservatory, with an ethereal sunrise shining through the window. “We’re thinking that this is going to be one of the main shots for the campaign.”

“Not thinking. It is the main shot for the campaign,” Jane said with a definitive nod. “It would be even more amazing if Bella would let us put her into the campaign. She’s absolutely gorgeous.”

“We may have to,” Emmett said. “One of the models we booked missed her flight and won’t make it in time.”

“I’ll go talk to her,” Jane smirked. “She will be in this shoot.” She adjusted her outfit, walking to where Bella was standing with the artistic director. Emmett, James and I watched as Jane slid her arm around Bella’s shoulders, guiding her to makeup station. I saw my girlfriend shake her head no with wide eyes. Jane did not take no for an answer. I watched as she was forced into the wardrobe tent.

“Damn, she did it,” Emmett said with a reverent voice.

“Jane is one of those people who just get what she wants,” James chuckled. “I’m going to start mocking up some campaign ideas based off this photo.” He walked away, taking his iPad with him.

As he left, I turned to Emmett. “How’s James been doing?” I asked quietly.

“Pretty good and to be honest, he’s getting along with better with Bella. They are still staying at arm’s length but working collaboratively. A lot of it was a conversation that Bella had with Victoria and drinks she had with Jane,” Emmett explained.

“I was surprised she agreed to this,” I shrugged. “She told me that if James would be in the office, she would be working remotely that day.”

“It took a lot of persuading,” Emmett sighed. “And promises of free babysitting. Speaking of which, you and Bella will have the entire weekend to yourselves. She said that there was fundraising benefit that you’re attending?”

“Yeah. With my history, I donate a lot of my time and money to foster system and to help defray the costs of adoptions. There are a lot of children in the world who are not loved, or wanted,” I explained. “If I can make a difference in one child’s life, it’s worth it. This will be Bella’s first time attending one of these events with me.”

“Edward, I know that you went through some shit,” Emmett said. “But, you’re an amazing human and you’re capable of so much … The kids that benefit from the fundraisers are very lucky.” He held up his coffee. “Thanks for the caffeine. I’m going to check if anyone needs anything. Are you staying?”

“I want to see my girlfriend as a model? Fuck, yeah,” I laughed.

“Finally, someone who can out-stubborn the most stubborn woman I’d ever met,” Emmett laughed. “Jane is my personal hero.”

I snorted as I sat down next to him, looking over the schedule of shots for the day. While Bella was getting beautified, we watched the other models and photographers shoot the luxurious clothing and elegant makeup. As the assistants were setting up a shot in the gardens, Bella walked out, wearing a pair of jeans that were painted on her body, with loose grey tunic with a geometric design. Her hair was wavy and her makeup was subtle but sexy. She clearly wasn’t comfortable, but wasn’t given much chance to fret. An assistant brought her over to the new set up. Within a few moments, Bella was laughing and relaxed as she got her picture taken for the campaign.

“You look like you’ve fallen in love with her all over again, Edward,” Emmett murmured to me.

“That’s because her effortless beauty matches what she has on the inside,” I breathed.

By mid-morning, the shoot was completed and Jane was overflowing with excitement for the preliminary shots of York Towne Clothing. As a token of thanks, Jane gifted the complete line to our female staffers. She also promised Bella all the clothes she’d modeled today, along with any clothes she wanted from the late summer line and all of the designs from the fall release since my girl didn’t want to be paid for her time as a model.

The photographers, assistants and makeup artists were packing up. Bella walked back to us with a garment bag draped over her arm. She was wearing her second outfit from the shoot, a pair of black leggings and an off-white tunic with some black jewelry. I opened my mouth to compliment her, but she gave me a shy look. I slid my arm around her waist. “You are exquisite, angel,” I whispered against her temple.

“I can’t believe that Jane talked me into this,” she snickered, gripping my shirt. “Now, my face will be on a nationally run advertising campaign. Hopefully, my pictures will not be chosen.”

“Don’t press your luck,” Jane giggled, arching a brow. “You and James and your teams are responsible for the design of the advertising campaign, but I get final say of the photos used. It’s in my contract. When do you think we’ll get the finalized photos?”

“I’m making mock-ups of designs, but we should get the photos in a couple of weeks. Once we get them, Bella and I will work around the clock to create the ads for the various platforms … social media, print ads, commercials, and everything in between,” James said.

“That work will have to wait. Let’s go out for lunch,” I grinned. “My treat.”

“I’m going to stay back and make sure that everything gets settled,” Emmett said. “Then, I have to head to the office for a conference call with another client. It was nice to see you again, Jane.” He shook her hand, walking to check on the remaining workers.

Lunch was dominated by Jane as she chattered about how York Towne Clothing came into fruition. Once we finished our meal, James went back to the office while Bella and I escorted Jane back to her hotel. She tried to convince us to go out with her tonight, but Bella was exhausted from being up too early while dealing with her work nemesis, James. As we walked to her car, parked at the conservatory parking lot, Bella yawned widely. “I’m going to pick up my sister and then crash,” she mumbled. “Tomorrow, Emmett is picking up Katie after dance so I can meet up with your mom.”

“What are you doing with her?” I asked.

“She’s treating me with a day of beauty before the fundraiser. You’re picking me up at their place,” she sighed, unlocking her car. “Then, we’re all going to Navy Pier to board the Odyssey for the event.” She slid her arms around my waist, snuggling against me despite the warmth of the day. “So tired …”

“I can drive you home, angel,” I murmured, kissing the crown of her head.

“No, I’m good,” she sighed. “Thanks for being here today. It was nice to have you as a buffer with James.”

“He spoke very highly of you,” I explained.

“Shocking,” she snorted. “I can say all he wants about me. It won’t change my opinion of him. He’s smart, driven and great at his job. I respect him for that, but as a human? Nope. He’s still a first-class douche. Anyway, my bed is calling. I love you, Grinchy.”

“I love you more, angel,” I said, cupping her chin and kissing her lips gently. Helping her into the car, she waved as she drove away. Once she was out of sight, I walked to my car. As much as I wanted to spend time with my girlfriend, I knew she needed some time to decompress. At least, tomorrow, I’d be able to spend the night with her on my arm at the fundraising benefit and perhaps, thanks to Emmett’s promise of free babysitting, I could coax Bella to spend the night in my arms.

Preferably, sans clothing.

xx FFADS xx

The next morning, I went for a run with Jasper and Garrett before heading to get my hair cut. I also indulged in a barber’s shave. When I was done, I picked up my tuxedo from the dry cleaners. Driving back to my condo, I settled in to do some work, answering some emails and checking on projects before getting ready and making my way to my parents’ home to pick them all up.

I got dressed, spraying on some cologne. My tuxedo fit me like a second skin and was completely out of the ordinary. It was charcoal grey with black details. I wore a white button-down shirt with a slim black tie and pair of sleek black dress shoes. Adjusting my cuffs, I picked up my car keys, cell phone and wallet. I made sure that Sam had food and water, leaving Animal Planet on for him.

It took me twenty minutes to drive to my parents’ home. My dad opened up the door when he saw me pull into the driveway. His tuxedo was more traditional, with black detailing. “Hey, Dad,” I said, shaking his hand.

“Looking sharp, Edward,” he smiled.

I blushed, murmuring my thanks. We walked inside and I heard my mom and Bella talking. “Are they ready?” I asked.

“Almost. Your mother wanted to sparkle Bella up a bit,” he snorted. “I don’t know … I thought Bella looked gorgeous, but Esme said the dress needed more.”

“She was wearing a strapless dress, Carlisle. She needed a necklace and earrings,” Esme said, following my gorgeous girlfriend. “What she had wasn’t enough. So, I lent her the jewelry you gave me for our twenty-fifth anniversary.”

That’s when I noticed her jewelry. Her hair was pulled up into a messy, but sexy updo and cushion-cut diamond earrings sparkled on her ears and around her neck was the matching necklace. My father had spent a pretty penny for that jewelry set. My mother treasured it, wearing it whenever we went out to these types of events or for benefits for the hospital. The fact that my mom lent it to my girlfriend spoke volumes about how much she adored her. Bella must have realized that the jewelry was a big deal. Her hand went up to her ears self-consciously.

“Don’t, love. You look beyond exquisite,” I said, sliding my arms around her waist. I made note that I wanted to put diamonds on her. A very important diamond … on her left ring finger …

But, not yet. I was terrified that history would repeat itself. In my mind, I knew that Bella would not betray me like Tanya did. My heart needed to catch up with my head.

“Why do I feel like the jewelry is worth more than my entire brownstone?” she whispered.

“Because it is,” I whispered back. She blanched. “Angel, my mom trusts you. She loves you.” I took her face in my hands. “I love you. Now, don’t worry about anything and let’s just have some fun tonight.” I kissed her sweetly. She sighed against my mouth. I threaded my fingers with hers and turned to face my parents. “Shall we?”

My father draped a wrap around my mother’s shoulder, giving me a smile. Bella bent down to pick up her clutch and her own wrap. We walked to my car. Bella and my mom sat in the back while my dad sat in the front with me. I drove to Navy Pier. Once we parked, we walked to the docking ramp. I recognized several organizers and people who were a part of my own past, including Dr. Volturi, who had been my doctor and was now caring for the Little One. His eyes lit up when he saw me with Bella. I knew that we’d talk, but once we got onto the ship.

“Oh, good. They’re taking photos,” Esme gushed, clapping her hands. “If only we had Katie with us … it would have been a beautiful family photo.”

“Perhaps, we can bring her later on in the summer,” Bella suggested. “My sister is relatively well-behaved, but a fancy event like this would be a bit much.”

“We’ll make it happen, angel,” I said, kissing her temple.

At the entrance of the ship, we took photos. Bella and I posed for the photo alone and with my parents. We walked up to the second level, finding our names and settling at our table. A server came to ask for our drink orders. My mom and Bella both ordered wine while I got a scotch and my father ordered a gin and tonic. When the server came back with our drinks, Marcus and his wife, Didyme, joined us at our table.

“Marcus, as always, it’s lovely seeing you,” Esme grinned, standing up and kissing his cheek. “Didyme, I love that color on you!” They hugged each other, sitting down.

“You enjoying the new office?” Carlisle asked, shaking Marcus’s hand.

“Very much so,” Marcus laughed. “Edward, you’re looking well, son. Not the same scrawny kid I examined all those years ago.”

“Thank you, Dr. Volturi,” I chuckled.

“I’m not your doctor anymore, Edward. We’ve been to enough of these events that you should call me Marcus,” he chided gently. He blinked to Bella, giving her a warm smile. “How are you, Miss Swan? And the young Miss Dwyer?”

“We’re both good,” Bella answered, sipping her wine. “I made an appointment with your office because Katie does need her vaccines before she starts kindergarten. We’re coming in July.”

“I look forward to seeing both of you,” Marcus grinned.

The server came, taking Marcus and Didyme’s drink orders and told us that we were leaving the pier in a few moments. Bella grinned excitedly, looking out through the window. Conversations stopped as the engines fired up, pushing away out into open water. Bella’s eyes sparkled as she looked at the skyline, outlined in the setting sun. “I knew Chicago was beautiful, but seeing it like this?” she breathed. “It’s remarkable.”

“It pales in comparison to you,” I murmured against her ear. She melted against me, giving me a loving look. “Love you, angel.”

“Love you more, Grinch,” she breathed. She brushed her lips with mine, finding my hand underneath the table. We threaded our fingers together, snuggling as best we could.

Appetizers were delivered about ten minutes later and conversations resumed. Bella was talking to my mom and Didyme about the photo shoot from the day before where I was looped in with my father and Marcus, discussing the abysmal baseball season that both the Cubs and White Sox were having. Marcus and my father were fans of the Sox, where I was a Cubs fan, along with my mother. Bella was the outsider, being a Mariners fan. That made sense since she’d spent most of her life in and around Seattle.

“Bella, there’s a silent auction on the deck below. Come with me so we can see if there’s anything you want to bid on,” Esme sang. My girlfriend blushed and nodded, kissing my cheek before following my adoptive mother and Didyme to the silent auction.

“You and Miss Swan make a beautiful couple,” Marcus grinned, taking a sip of his drink.

“She’s my everything,” I breathed. “I never imagined I could feel this happy, this content. Bella is everything that I’d ever dreamed of as a partner. She’s brilliant, funny, loving, compassionate and patient. She has to be patient with me, to be honest. Being in a relationship with me, she’s got the patience of a saint. I’m not the easiest person to understand or love.”

“A year ago, it was a struggle,” Carlisle said. “But, you were dealt a shit-hand of cards, son. Now? The love you have for that woman fills the room, and then some.”

“I predict wedding bells,” Marcus smirked.

“Perhaps, in time,” I shrugged. “I love Bella tremendously and I would love nothing more than to be with her forever. However, my history leaves me leery.”

“History?” Marcus asked. I gave Marcus an abbreviated version of the betrayal of my ex-wife and my best friend. “I guess I’d be hesitant to pull the trigger, especially after that.”

“At least Tanya apologized,” I shrugged. “She moved to California and entered a rehab program. In a letter that was delivered to me, she said that she’s staying there.”

“Good riddance,” my father muttered.

“Tanya was my past and Bella is my future. I know that for certain,” I nodded.

“Well, when the women come back, we can peruse the silent auction for something for your Bella,” Marcus grinned.

They did come back, about twenty minutes later. The main course was also served and I didn’t get a chance to check out the silent auction until after the meal. Marcus and I wandered around the items slowly, examining each option before making our bids. I put my name down on a couple of trips. One would be a romantic five-day trip for me and Bella to Napa Valley while the other was to Orlando for ten days with passes to Disney World, Universal Studios and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The latter was quite popular. I crossed my fingers as I put down my bid that I’d walk away with that trip for me and my girls.

Walking back to the main level, I heard some music playing and I found Bella. I took her hand, gently tugging her to her feet. I spun her onto the dance floor. She shook her head. “I can’t dance, Edward,” she argued as I enfolded her in my arms as an old romantic jazz standard.

“It’s not so much the dance as a reason to hold you,” I grinned, capturing her hand against my chest and moving smoothly over the dance floor. “A reason to feel your body pressed against mine, to smell your perfume, to caress your skin.”

“You’re making verbal love to me,” she cooed.

“A precursor of what will happen tonight when we get home,” I breathed, brushing my lips with hers. She smiled against my mouth, idly playing with the hair at the nape of my neck. We stayed on the dance floor as the music wafted over us, still slow and very romantic. Other couples joined us, along with my parents and Dr. Volturi and his wife.

We sat down for cups of coffee and after-dinner drinks. Bella asked if we could explore the ship. We’d both gone down to the silent auction, which left the roof of the vessel. I picked up her wrap since the wind was brisk on the lake and we walked up to the roof. I slid the wrap around her arms when we got outside. “Wow, it’s frigid,” she said, rubbing her arms.

“Do you want my jacket?” I asked, unbuttoning my tuxedo coat.

“Not yet,” she answered, walking to the railing. “I can cuddle with you.” I stood behind her, sliding my arms around her waist. “The city looks like it’s twinkling.”

“Chicago is a beautiful city,” I murmured. “What’s it like, compared to Seattle?”

“Seattle just has a different vibe,” Bella explained. “Everyone is in a rush here, where Seattle is more relaxed. Very health-conscious and alternative. It was the birthplace of Jimi Hendrix and grunge music. It’s beautiful, in its own right. It definitely earns its nickname of the Emerald City. Everything surrounding it is so green. Have you ever been?”

“No. I’ve never been to Seattle. Portland, yes,” I answered. “MAC was asked to give a presentation to Nike when they were looking for ways to expand their advertising reach. We didn’t get the contract for Nike, but we did some work for Cole Haan.”

“At some point, I do need to go back to Seattle and Forks to deal with the house,” Bella explained.

“Do you have a date in mind?” I asked.

“Not yet,” she replied. “You can see where I’m from and I could give you the tour of the Pacific Northwest.” She turned around, smiling up at me. “Tonight has been a lot of fun. I’m also in awe of what you do for this organization. Your mom told me.”

“Not everyone is as fortunate as Katie when they lose their parents,” I sighed. “I wasn’t. I don’t anyone to endure what I did. With my donations and work with these foster and adoption agencies, many kids will have a soft place to land.”

“You are such a good man, Edward Cullen,” she smiled, kissing my lips. “I’m so lucky to be with you.”

“I’m the lucky one, angel,” I said, cupping her cheek and deepening our kiss, tasting her sweetness. We stayed up on the roof until my phone vibrated in my pocket. I checked my phone, seeing a message from my dad. “They’re announcing the winners of the silent auctions. Come on.”

We sat back down at the table and we listened as the organizers of the benefit announced the winners. Bella was the winner of a dance package for Katie, which included beginning ballet, beginning jazz and beginning tap lessons at a prestigious dance academy. My parents won a trip to Paris, Inverness, Belfast and London. Much to my chagrin, Marcus and Didyme won the trip to Napa Valley, but I managed to snag the trip to Orlando, which caused Bella to give me a sharp look. I just grinned widely as I walked up to get the basket after I paid the treasurer.

However, as we got off the boat, while Bella was talking to Didyme and my mom, Marcus handed me the basket with the information about the trip. “I gift from me to you and your beautiful soul mate,” Marcus smiled.

“I can’t take this, Marcus,” I said.

“Edward, you deserve this. So does your Bella,” he smirked. “Call me, son. Let’s do lunch, hmmm?”

“Sounds good, Marcus,” I chuckled, shaking his hand.

He grinned and gave my girlfriend a warm hug. We picked up our photos, making our way to the parking garage. I drove us back to my parents’ home. Bella took off the jewelry she borrowed from my mother, handing it back to her. When I parked the car, my mother asked me to join her inside while my dad entertained Bella.

“What’s up, Mom?” I asked.

“This jewelry is much more suited to Bella than it is to me,” she said, putting the necklace and earrings into the mahogany box.

“Dad gave you that,” I argued. “For your anniversary … he saved up for …”

“And he agreed with me,” she argued right back, handing me the box. “Edward, we’ve never seen you so happy. Bella gives you the peace and love you deserve. These looked perfect on her and it would go to you eventually when we die.”

“Mom,” I choked out. “You’re fine. Healthy …”

“Oh, baby,” she cooed, hugging me and kissing my cheeks. “Your father and I aren’t going anywhere. Not for some time. But, it would give both of us happiness if you gave the jewelry to Bella.” She gave me another hug. “Now, have a great rest of your night, Edward. I know I will …”

“Ugh, Mom!” I groaned.

“We may be old, but we’re not dead,” she quipped. “You’re going to do the same.”

My red cheeks answered her question as she pushed me out of the bedroom. I jogged down the steps, passing my father. He gave me a wink and I shook my head, darting back out to the car. “Sorry, angel. Mom needed to ask me something,” I said.

“Your dad was asking me about Katie and my plans for the dance package I won for her,” she explained. “I think he was just stalling for you.”

“Hmmm, that could be right,” I agreed. “However, now? I want to get you back to my condo so I can worship you.”

“As long as I can repay you in kind,” she purred.

xx FFADS xx

Unfortunately, the night of the benefit was last time I got to spend any sort of quality time with her. I had to do some traveling and she was buried, head-long, in the York Town clothing campaign with James. I didn’t know much, but I knew that she was pulling late hours and working on meeting the deadline of a June 21st launch on all social media platforms, print ads and commercials.

Bella wanted to have it done before the weekend of my birthday, which fell on June 20th, the Sunday before the launch. James was making it difficult. Even with Bella, David and Emmett working on it, it didn’t seem like it would be done. With the level of perfection that James and Jane were asking for, it was a never-ending cycle of work.

Normally, we would celebrate my adoption day in April, but I was out of town and we could never get our schedules to line up. So, instead, we decided to celebrate my actual birthday. That was before the insanity of the campaign. I wasn’t happy about it, but I plastered on a smile.

“I wish Bella could come with us,” Esme frowned. “It’s your birthday, Edward. Does she know?”

“Yes, she knows,” I sighed. “She wants to be with us, but this campaign is huge. Millions of dollars are at stake and this would be a huge deal for her and for the team. She feels so fucking guilty about missing my birthday.”

“Couldn’t Katie come?” Carlisle asked.

“Katie is spending time with Aunt Alice, Aunt Cynthia and the girls,” I replied. “Since Bella is working so many hours, they’re all taking turns with Katie’s care. I got to spend time with her on Thursday. She made me the sweetest card while at daycare.” It hung on my bulletin board in my office. She also gave me a homemade mug, painted in various shades of green and blue.

“Perhaps after dinner, you can stop by the office and see her,” Esme grinned. “Bring her some of your cake.”

“That was the plan,” I said. “The cake looks delicious, Mom. I love rum cake. Thank you.”

“Nothing but the best for my son,” she cooed, kissing my cheek.

We went out to eat, enjoying dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. It did feel weird to not have Bella by my side, but she sent me a text, wishing me a happy birthday and her love. After eating dinner, we went back to my parents’ place for singing, coffee and rum cake. I also opened up my gifts, which was a card from my parents with a check. I thanked them and we chatted for a little while longer before I left their house. I drove to the office and was shocked to see Bella’s SUV, along with James’ ostentatious sports car. Emmett’s Jeep was gone and David used public transportation since he’d sold his car to move down to Chicago.

He couldn’t afford the car and his tiny condo in Boy’s Town. So, the car was sold.

I picked up the plate of cake, walking to the elevators and rode up to MAC. I heard laughter in the small conference room. My stomach twisted, but walked toward the sound. I turned the corner, seeing Bella smiling at James and his hand was on her face while his other hand was braced by her hip. I watched, in horror, as he moved closer to her. The plate I was holding fell from my hands as I saw a repeat of the ultimate betrayal.

Bella was allowing James to …

How could she? She was supposed to be different!

My heart shattered like the plate at my feet. I couldn’t watch this. I turned on my heel and damn near sprinted back to the elevators. “Edward?” I punched the call button. The doors opened and I stepped inside. “Edward!”

I turned around, anger seething through me. “You’re no different than she was,” I sneered. “How could you?”

“Edward, I didn’t do anything,” she cried, tears falling down her cheeks. “I fell and hit my head on the table … we were both getting slap happy. Emmett went to go get food …”

“Fucking liar. You are a liar and a cheat,” I growled. “I’m done. So fucking done. Tanya, she betrayed me. In a way, I expected it from her. You? Broke me.” The doors closed and I fell to the ground as my heart shattered into a million pieces.

Nothing could put my heart back together. I was just a shell, an empty shell. I wasn’t worthy of love. I wasn’t worthy of life.

What was the point?

I don’t remember the drive home. I definitely don’t remember how I got into my condo. I do remember tearing my condo to pieces as I roared in agony. Anything that wasn’t tacked down was thrown or shattered. I pounded my hands onto the wall, the countertops and doorways. I collapsed onto the floor; my energy spent. My hands, which had finally healed from punishment of what had happened between Bella and me a couple months ago, were torn to shreds, just like my heart. Sam was frightened of me, but he curled up next to me as I cried brokenly. When I woke up the next morning, everything seemed worse. I was laying on the ground, surrounded by debris and my entire body was in pain.

However, that paled in comparison to the emptiness I felt in my heart, my soul. Again, what was the point? I was betrayed by the woman who I thought was my forever.

Forever was a dream, a fairy tale.

A shattered dream …

I didn’t deserve a happily ever after. I didn’t deserve anything.

Happy birthday to me …

My world lost its light and I was bathed in darkness once again.

A/N: Cliff hanger, hmmmm? James … he was involved … Leave me your thoughts.

Up next will be Bella … what will happen next?

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