Falling for a Dark Soul @tufano79
Chapter 33

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.

As I said before, we’re getting close to the end. We’re going back to Bella next chapter, leading up to her birthday and the triumphant return of Edward to MAC. Leave me some loving! Thank you for reading!

Chapter Thirty-Three

Bella

Sitting in the waiting room of my psychiatrist, I was growing more frustrated. I liked the doctor who I was seeing, but he was never on time. I’d usually wait, at least, a half hour to see him. I learned that the hard way when I tried to schedule an appointment during my lunch. I ended up missing the entire afternoon, along with a meeting with Jane and Eric of York Towne Clothing.

Suffice it to say, I moved my appointments to the end of the day or on the weekend. Today, it was the former. I’d bugged out of the office a half hour early to make it to my appointment on time, only to wait. I only dealt with this because I’d felt a connection with the doctor, Dr. Daniel Spencer.

He reminded me a lot of Phil.

The door opened and my doctor poked his head out. “Come on in, Bella,” he said, giving me a slight grimace. “I’m sorry about the delay.”

“If I didn’t like you so much, it would be a problem, Dr. Spencer,” I chided, following him to his office. “I also understand why you are behind schedule. You actually care about your patients.”

“I do care about my patients, very much. Please, have a seat. Do you want some water? Coffee?” he asked.

“Water would be nice. It’s too late for coffee. If I drink coffee now, I’ll never be able to sleep tonight,” I snickered, sitting down and crossing my legs.

“I’ve got another four hours. I desperately need the coffee,” he quipped, ducking out of the office. A few moments later, he came back into the office, handing me a bottle of water and putting his coffee on the side table next to his chair. “How are you doing today, Bella?”

“I’m alright, I guess,” I shrugged, sipping my water. “Focusing on work and rebuilding my relationship with Edward.”

“How did the belated birthday celebration go?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“He was completely surprised and we both enjoyed our time together,” I smiled. “I’m still feeling like it’s my fault that he was in that car accident and I know he blames himself for what happened on the night of his birthday. We’re both trying to come to grips with what happened, but we’re dealing with our guilt.”

“Bella, we’ve talked about this. It was not your fault that he was in that accident. Nor was it his fault for his upbringing that caused his inherent distrust,” Dr. Spencer chided.

“My mind gets it, but my heart is taking its sweet time to play catch up,” I snorted humorlessly. “I just wish I could move past this guilt, and fear.”

“Have you tried driving?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“Every time I try, I end up having to take an anxiety pill,” I choked out. “I can’t stop seeing those gouges in the mud and the damage to the trees. I see Edward in that hospital room, a sickly shade of gray and with tubes coming out of him, every which way. He’s got some serious injuries to his ribcage because of those animals who beat the shit out of him as a kid. It was exacerbated by the car accident. He wouldn’t have been in that car accident if I’d only spoken with him that afternoon. I was the one who told him to come back later. I forced him back, driving in a deluge …”

“Bella, sweetheart,” Dr. Spencer murmured, crouching in front of me. “Focus on me. Focus on the here and now.” I closed my eyes, feeling tears coming down my cheeks as Dr. Spencer, squeezed my hands. “Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. That’s a good girl.”

I listened to Dr. Spencer as he talked me through my panic attack. His deep, resonant voice kept me rooted in the office, but my mind was spiraling around Edward, my parents, Katie and my irrational fears. I blinked a few times, finally seeing Dr. Spencer’s dark brown eyes swirling with concern. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.

“Never apologize, Bella. What happens in this room, stays in this room,” Dr. Spencer said quietly, handing me my water. He sat down on the cocktail table as I continued to calm down. “Better?”

“Slightly,” I sighed. “Tiny victories. I didn’t have to take a pill.”

“That is good,” he smiled. “Now, all we need to do is get you able to get behind the wheel again.”

“Thank goodness that Chicago has a decent public transit system,” I quipped as he sat back down in his chair. “And, I have great friends who can chauffeur me to and from work.”

“Bella,” he chided.

“I know, I know,” I sighed. “What if I can’t get over this? What if I can’t drive again?”

“Mind over matter,” Dr. Spencer shrugged. “Bella, you were traumatized when your mother and stepfather were killed in that car accident. You needed to be strong for your sister, whom you became the legal guardian of overnight. Then, within a year, you dealt with another traumatic situation when Edward was in a very similar situation. Tell me how you felt when you saw the deputy on your doorstep?”

“Like I was living in a nightmare,” I whispered. “I couldn’t lose another person I loved. Even though that Edward and I had this huge blow up, I still love him. I will always love him. Despite his issues, he was capable of so much love and devotion. He didn’t know how to share it, how to show it. He’d been deprived of so much as a child and he was showing it freely to Katie, to me …”

“Does he still show you that same level of love?” Dr. Spencer asked.

“Every day, but he’s also fighting his own demons,” I murmured. “He’s seeing his own therapist, trying to move forward in his life.” I sipped my water, still feeling a bit shaky.

“Do you trust him?”

“I do trust Edward. Despite what happened between us, that hasn’t changed,” I answered. “We’re talking a lot more, moving past what had caused the rift between us. It was needed since he’d just run away, not listening to me that day.”

“That’s important that you have trust, love and friendship in a relationship,” Dr. Spencer said. “I’ve got that with my wife and we’ve been together since we were both in high school. Over forty years together, thirty-six years married.” He picked up a photo of him and his wife, with two handsome men with their own partners. “My wife’s name is Elaine. We have two boys, Maurice and Harold. Maurice is married to a wonderful man, Dante, and they just adopted their first child. I don’t have a photo of my granddaughter, Camila, yet. Harold is dating a lovely woman, Allison, and he’s looking to propose soon.”

“You have a beautiful family,” I breathed, looking at the picture. “Congratulations on your granddaughter.” I handed him back the photo. “Did you and your wife, Elaine, have any struggles?”

“Right after we had Maurice, I was finishing up my residency and I was living at the hospital while Elaine was dealing with a colicky, persnickety baby. It had gotten so bad that I found out that my son was in the hospital through a nurse. He’d had a high fever and my wife could not get a hold of me,” Dr. Spencer explained. “I nearly lost her, but it was the fault of the nurses who hadn’t paged me when Elaine called the ward. I ended up taking a two week hiatus while Maurice battled pneumonia. Regardless, I had a lot of ground to make up with her. It took time, almost two years, before we managed to get over that situation, but we did.” He looked at me after he slurped his coffee. “Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. How are you feeling with the medications?”

The rest of the appointment was spent talking about how I was adapting to the mild antidepressant I was prescribed. We also talked about some tiny steps that I could take to remove the fear of driving from my mind. We talked about having some nearby to support me, like Alice, Emmett, Jasper or Rose. Katie could not be anywhere near me because my fears doubled when she was in the vicinity.

The fight or flight instinct was alive and well. I wanted to fly away, burying my head in the sand to keep her away from the pain I was struggling with.

Before I left, Dr. Spencer encouraged me to try driving, even if it was around the block and to put it into perspective. Compare what I was doing to what happened to my parents and to Edward. It was my homework. I trembled in my seat, but I made my promises to do my best.

Even if I wanted to vomit with anxiety.

I had to get over this. In order to do so, I had to push myself.

I took the el to the stop closest to Carlisle and Esme’s home, walking in the humid air. As I rounded the corner, I saw a Katie running around the park with Sam on her heels. I noticed Edward was sitting on a bench, a crutch next to him. He was wearing a pair of shorts along with a polo shirt and a pair of sneakers.

“Bella!” Katie squealed. She skipped toward me, with Sam following her, barking happily. I chuckled crouching down to hug my sister, kissing her forehead. “Did you see? Did you see? Edward’s using a crutch. He’s getting better!”

“I did see that,” I said. “Did you walk here with Edward and Sam?”

“I held Sam’s leash, but yes, we walked here,” Katie said, rubbing Sam’s ears and dragging me to the bench where Edward was sitting. I sat down, mindful of Edward’s recuperating body. “Come on, Sammy.” My sister took off, with Sam following her eagerly.

“This is the most exercise he’s gotten in weeks,” Edward chuckled, grimacing as he adjusting his body on the bench.

“Are you in pain?” I asked.

“I’m hating this brace,” he groaned. “It’s hot as balls and this thing is …” He shook his head. “But, I’m happy that I got out of the house on my steam. I was slower than molasses in January, but I was able to walk.”

“Are you able to walk back to the house?”

“Soon,” he smiled, reaching to take my hand and kissing my palm. “From someone who was able to run twenty miles a couple months ago to struggling to walk a block is truly humbling.”

“You’ll be able to run again,” I smiled, leaning closer to kiss his lips.

“I will, but not to the extent that I used to,” he sighed. “I went to physical therapy today and I was freed of the walker. I asked my therapist when I could get back to running, training. He said that I could get back into it, but I’d have to have the hip joint replaced sooner.”

“Why did you run?” I asked, threading our fingers together.

“It was a way for me to work out my anxieties and anger. I could pound the pavement when I couldn’t pound my fists into the faces of the assholes who’d hurt me,” Edward replied, his brow furrowed deeply. He looked down at our hands, frowning at the scars that remained on his knuckles from his angry attack to his walls and cabinetry. “However, I’m not as angry anymore.”

“Is it because you found out what happened to those assholes?” I snarled. His anger was now becoming mine.

“Angel, don’t,” he chided gently, caressing my cheek and guiding me to look at him. “They got what they deserved. Years in prison, their freedom stolen from them and they know what it’s like to have their choice taken away.” I arched a brow at him. “Let’s just say that their crimes were well publicized. Apparently, there is no honor to people, to men, who sexually abuse a child.” He gave me an evil grin, showing his true feelings.

“Have you considered talking to them? Telling them to go fuck off?” I snorted.

“I don’t see the point. I’m finally free of them, free of their control and able to live my life. I want to move forward. I want to have my dreams come true. For the first time in my life, I’m planning for the future. That future includes you and Katie,” he whispered, picking up my hand and brushing his lips over my knuckles. “That’s if you want to share your future with me.”

“More than anything,” I whispered back, moving closer to him. His eyes were soft as he stared at me. No more haunted expressions or wary looks. He was truly at peace. “I love you, Edward.”

“I love you more, angel,” he breathed, brushing his lips over mine. We kissed each other tenderly until I felt a vibration against my leg. He grumbled, pulling away and taking out his cell phone. “Hello?” He wrinkled his nose. “Okay, Mom. We’re on our way back. Be aware that I’m slower than shit … What? I am … Love you, too.”

“Did Esme admonish you for your language,” I teased as he put his phone back into his pocket.

“I do need to stop,” he said, sighing heavily. “Why don’t you get Katie and Sam? I don’t want you to watch me as I struggle to get up.”

“You’re not alone anymore, Edward. Let me help you,” I said, standing up and moving so I was in front of him.

“I outweigh you by a lot, Bella. I don’t want to hurt you,” he argued.

“And you should know that I’m stronger than I look,” I argued back, holding out my hands. He eyed me dubiously, taking my both my hands. I held tightly as he pressed down, getting to his feet. He stumbled a bit and I caught his arms, balancing him. “See?”

“I won’t doubt you again, Bella,” he murmured, staring at me. From the intensity of his gaze, he was speaking about more than just my strength, but about what had happened on his birthday. “Never again.” He cupped my chin and kissed me, sliding his arms around me. I sighed, feeling him and allowing his presence to be the soothing balm that I needed.

That I always needed, but I never knew that I did.

xx FFADS xx

“Bella! Bella! Bella!” Katie sang, jumping on the bed. “Wake up! Wake up!”

“It’s too damn early,” I grumbled, covering my head with a pillow. “I get to enjoy one day where I don’t have to use an alarm. I don’t need you jumping on bladder, Kit Kat.”

“You can sleep in on Sundays,” Katie argued.

“We have church, brat,” I said, scooping my sister off the bed and into my arms. I blew a raspberry into her neck and she laughed, squirming against me.

“B-B-B-Bella! I’m gonna pee!” Katie said. I let her go and she moved to sit facing me. “Gotcha!”

“Well, I’m going to pee,” I yawned, padding to the bathroom. I quickly took care of business, washing my face and brushing my teeth. I tossed my hair up into ponytail. Walking back to the bedroom, I sat back down on the bed. “Now, why did you wake me up super early?”

“It’s not super early. The sun is up,” Katie argued, smirking. Semantics. I arched a brow. “We’re spending the day with Edward! A date! He’s going to pick us up at noon.”

“He’s driving?” I asked.

“No, he said he’s getting us a ride,” Katie giggled. “Come on, Bella. You need to look pretty for Edward. Wear that dress you got from Miss Jane! The one with the thick straps.” She hopped off the bed, scampering to my closet and pulling out a turquoise dress with a rust colored pattern on the bottom. “This one!”

“Oh, Katie, I don’t know,” I frowned. The dress was incredibly cute, but didn’t really lend itself for a bra.

“Miss Jane said it would be perfect,” Katie argued, putting the dress on the bed. She arched a brow, reminding me of Alice. “Wear it!”

“Okay, okay,” I sighed. “Let me shower and get ready for this date. Where are we going?” Katie just grinned, skipping out of my bedroom. “For that, you’re not getting a sucker after your appointment with Dr. Volturi, Kit Kat.” She just laughed. I sighed and picked up the dress, walking to the bathroom. I took my shower, leaving my hair to curl naturally. I put on some makeup before putting on my dress with a pair of sandals. I finished my look with the necklace that Edward had given me along with the ring. I jogged down the stairs, seeing Katie on the couch, watching some television. “Do you want anything to eat for breakfast?”

“I had a bagel and a juice box,” she answered. “When you’re done with your breakfast, can you braid my hair?”

“Sure, Kit Kat,” I replied. “Two pig tails or one braid?”

“One, please,” she requested. I winked at her, going into the kitchen to make myself some coffee along with a quick breakfast. I checked my Facebook and Twitter accounts before walking back into the living room. Katie had changed into her own adorable summer outfit. She had her brush and the detangling spray. I encouraged her to sit on the floor. I brushed through her curls, tightly Dutch braiding her hair.

A half hour later, there was a knock on the door. Katie just grinned widely, waggling her brows. “What are you on, Kit Kat? You’re in rare form.” I shook my head, standing up to open the door. Swinging it open, I smiled when I saw Edward. He was holding a gorgeous bouquet as he leaned on his crutch. “Hi.”

“For you, angel,” he said, holding out the flowers. I took them and accepted a kiss from him. “You look beautiful, Bella. I see my little minion convinced you to wear the dress.”

“She did a lot more than convince me to wear the dress,” I snickered, stepping aside to let him in. “She got me up way too early.”

“You needed to look nice, Bella,” Katie chirped as she skipped to the foyer. “Hi, Edward.” She hugged his good leg, grinning up at him. “How’s Sammy?”

“Sammy is good. He’s at doggie daycare,” Edward answered, brushing his fingers down Katie’s cheek. “Come on, my two beautiful girls. We have an amazing day ahead.”

Grabbing my purse, I locked up my brownstone and stumbled out the door. “What is that?” I asked, looking at a gorgeous white convertible idling on the street.

“Our transportation for the day,” he answered, making his way slowly down the steps. When he was on the sidewalk, he reached for my hand. Our fingers twined together as we walked to the car. There was a booster seat for Katie and an older man behind the wheel. “Katie, Bella, this is Jeremy. He’s our driver for today.”

“Hello, Miss Bella and Miss Katie,” Jeremy said from the behind the wheel.

“Come on, my girls,” Edward beamed, opening the door.

Katie scrambled into the car. I slid in next to her and buckled her into the booster seat. Edward put his crutch in the front seat, next to Jeremy before getting into the other side. The car purred like a kitten as we drove away from my home. We drove down Lake Shore Drive to a ceramics studio near MAC. Jeremy parked the car, helping us out. “What time should I be back, Mr. Cullen?” he asked.

“I have your number, Jeremy,” Edward said, handing him some cash. “Thank you for the ride.”

“A pleasure, sir,” Jeremy replied, sliding back behind the wheel and driving away.

“What are we doing here?” I asked, taking his hand and guiding Katie inside.

“This was Katie’s idea,” Edward chuckled. “She saw an ad on my computer on Facebook. She wanted to go.”

“They have unicorns that I can I paint,” Katie giggled.

“Oh, we’re on to unicorns now?” I teased as we walked to the counter. Edward just snickered as he checked us in. We were led to a back table. The owner explained how things worked and left us to our own devices. Katie found a ginormous unicorn to paint while I picked out a vase. Edward was debating between a large bowl or a couple of plates.

Once we got our paints, and Katie in an apron, we began working on our ceramic masterpieces. I was watching as Edward was approaching his glazing with a more abstract technique, using blues, purples and greens. “That’s really pretty, Edward,” I said as I painted blue swirls on my vase, which I was planning on using as a container for my serving utensils in the kitchen.

“I may not be able to draw, but I do like glazing pottery and ceramics. When I was in college, I took a pottery class. I loved being able to throw the clay and create something from nothing. Granted, my creations were pretty pitiful, but I enjoyed glazing the bowls, vases and stuff. It was magical to see a blob of grey nothing into something beautiful. I got a C in the class because the structures of my pottery were awful but the glazing saved me from failing,” he shrugged. “I like your design. Reminiscent of Chinoiserie …”

“I’m impressed you know what that is,” I snickered.

“It matches everything in your kitchen,” he smiled.

“So, what else is planned for today? Katie was pretty secretive,” I asked.

“I wanted to spend the day with you and Katie. Everything has been focused on therapy, both physical and emotional. I wanted us to have fun,” Edward shrugged. “Katie wanted to go to Six Flags, but my stamina is not all that great. Today is pushing it with what we have planned. That’s why I have the crutch.” I arched a brow, encouraging him to continue. He smiled crookedly. “After this, we’re going to Navy Pier. We’re having a late lunch at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Then, we’re spending the day playing: mini-golf, the Ferris wheel, games and ending with night time architectural tour of Chicago along the Chicago River.”

“That sounds perfect,” I breathed. “And, it’s a perfect day for it.” I put my brush down, reaching to take his hand. “I love you, Grinch. Though, this is not a grinchy date you’ve planned.” Edward leaned over, brushing his lips over mine tenderly.

The rest of our time at the ceramic shop went by quickly. My vase turned out better than I expected and I couldn’t wait until the finished product was fired. Katie’s unicorn was a rainbow of iridescent glazes and Edward’s bowl seemed to morph into a piece that would go well in my kitchen, with varying shades of blue and cream. Where my vase was more structured, Edward’s was more abstract, but beautiful, nonetheless.

He’d called Jeremy after we paid for our pieces. They would be fired and be ready for pick up in a week. We clambered into the car and drove to Navy Pier. Thanking Jeremy, we went inside Navy Pier, settling on the outside patio of Bubba Gump Shrimp. The meal was filled with laughter and conversation. Edward was incredibly demonstrative to both me and Katie. We both ate it up, eagerly enjoying how free and happy Edward was.

When we finished our meal, we went out to the Ferris wheel first. Katie was terrified, but Edward was kind and patient, coaxing her onto the carriage. While the wheel went around, we took pictures of the city and managed to take a few photos of us as a family. My heart was bursting for the love I saw between Edward and Katie. While I was working, Katie had been staying with Esme and Edward. Their relationship had grown by leaps and bounds. My sister needed this. She deserved this.

So did I …

Edward wasn’t perfect. Hell, neither was I.

But, he was perfect for me. He was perfect for us.

I brushed my fingers through his hair, trailing my hand down his face. He turned to look at me, his green eyes sparkling warmly. “I love you, Edward,” I murmured, trying to keep my tears away.

He cupped my face, wiping an errant tear that had escaped. “Why are you crying, angel?”

“Just the thought of possibly losing this … losing you,” I whispered, snuggling closer to him. “Thank you for fighting for me, fighting for us.”

“Thank you for giving me another chance, angel,” he smiled, nuzzling my neck. “I adore you and will spend the rest of my days showing you how much I cherish you and Katie.” His hand moved to lay on my belly. “Perhaps, have one of our own?”

“One step at a time, Grinch,” I breathed, pressing my hand over his. “But, I want that, too.” He kissed me again, a smile on his face.

We got out of the carriage and made our way to the mini golf course. Edward was getting tired, relying heavily on his crutch. Thankfully, his ribs had healed and he was no longer required to wear the uncomfortable brace. I knew he was frustrated with his recovery. But, it had been nearly two months since his accident. He was already defying the odds by walking without the assistance of a walker. His age and his athleticism helped with his recovery, but it was still slow-going.

Katie and I ended up golfing. Edward just followed along with us, sitting on the various benches around the course. I did notice that he took some pain killers at the fourth hole, swallowing them with some water. Despite being in pain, he did take photos and cheered on his girls, excited when either one of us got a good shot.

Once the sun set, we boarded a boat. Katie sat on Edward’s lap so she could a better view. We barely paid attention to the tour guide as she described about the unique architecture of the Chicago skyline. When the tour was over, the boat rode the waves along the shoreline, zipping across the water with ease.

When we’d docked, Edward paid for the photo that was taken as we boarded the boat before we left Navy Pier. It had been an amazing day, but I could see the pain in Edward’s gaze as he limped to where Jeremy was meeting us.

“Are you coming over to our house, Edward?” Katie asked. “Bring Sammy!”

“You should ice your hip, Grinch,” I chided gently. “Let us take care of you.”

“Who am I to deny my girls?” he murmured. “How about I have Jeremy drop you both off and I pick up Sam, along with some things from my condo? I’ll be over about a half hour?”

We got into the car and Jeremy drove us back to my brownstone. Katie was yawning. I knew that she’d crash soon, but I was determined to keep her awake. We both changed, settling to watch some television as we waited for Edward to return. As promised, he arrived a half hour later, with Sam, an overnight bag and his own car. “You drove?” I asked.

“I was cleared to drive at my last physical therapy appointment,” he chuckled. “Besides, I’d only paid Jeremy for the date. Though, the car we had was pretty awesome. I may have to upgrade.” He handed me Sam’s leash as he limped inside. “Yeah, I pushed it today.”

“Sit your ass on the couch and I’ll get you an icepack,” I commanded, unclipping Sam’s leash. He trotted inside, hopping onto the chair with Katie. She snuggled with Sam, closing her eyes contentedly. Edward sat down, lifting his leg onto the couch with a grimace. I went into the kitchen, picking up two ice packs … one for his hip and the other for his thigh. I walked back into the living room, tucking the ice packs around his injuries. “Your ankle is so swollen.”

“It’s because I pushed it. I’ll be okay,” he said, tugging me to sit by him. I sighed, sliding my arm around his waist. “It’s been forever since I’ve held you.”

“You held me on the Ferris wheel,” I quipped.

“Not like this,” he sighed, pressing his lips to my forehead. He chuckled, tightening his hold on me. “Katie is out.”

I looked back at her and she was snoring, quite loudly. “Maybe she’ll sleep in tomorrow and perhaps, we’ll take this Sunday off from church. I’m with her and I don’t want you to be rushing around tomorrow morning. You are spending the night, right?”

“I want to, very much,” he whispered, idly playing with a curl. “But, after I ice my gimpy self.”

“Do you need any medication?” I asked.

“I took some once I got to my condo,” he sighed. “Something stronger than ibuprofen. I’ll be feeling this tomorrow.”

“I can move, Edward,” I whispered, wriggling to move out of his arms.

“Bella, love, you are the least of my worries. Having you in my arms is a dream come true,” he said. “You make the pain stop … It’s been too long, angel. Let me hold you.”

We stayed curled up on the couch until the ice pack warmed up. I put it back into my fridge while Edward made his way upstairs. I gently nudged Katie awake and practically carried her upstairs, with Sam on my heels. I tucked Katie into bed. Sam curled up by her feet. “Keep her safe, Sam,” I chuckled, scrubbing behind his ears. I padded into my bedroom. Edward was laying on the bed, wearing nothing but a pair of sleep pants. He was down for the count, just like Katie, curled around my pillow.

I quickly changed into my pajamas, washing off my makeup and tugging my hair back into a messy bun. I slid into bed. Despite his exhaustion, Edward pulled me into his arms and sighed. “Love you, angel,” he mumbled sleepily.

“Love you more, Grinch,” I breathed, allowing my eyes to drift closed.

xx FFADS xx

My eyes were crossing and I was exhausted. I’d woken up with the worst migraine, but I couldn’t take the day off since I had a meeting with Victoria and Laurent for their holiday launch for New Moon Cosmetics. I also was scheduled to take the following day off to bring Katie to her first day of kindergarten, attending private Catholic school through our parish. I knew I’d be a mess after dropping her off.

For her because she was taking those first steps in her education without her mother.

For me because I was not her mom. I really wanted my mother to see how Katie was doing, growing and flourishing.

The phone on my desk rang. I picked it up. “Masen Advertising Corporation, Bella Swan speaking,” I said.

“Bella, I have Beverly Crowley on the line for you,” said Shelly.

“Oh, okay,” I mumbled. “Put her through. Thanks.” I hung up the phone and picked it up once it rang again. “Bev? What’s up? Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine,” Beverly chuckled. “I tried calling your cell phone, but you may have it off or whatever. I’ve got news about Lauren.”

“Do I have to come back to testify against that bitch?” I sneered.

“She took a plea, which we knew. However, Lauren and my son were so far into debt that … it was so bad. You were not the only client she fleeced. She’s going to jail for at least fifteen years for fraud, extortion and money laundering,” Beverly said. “My son … he’s fighting the charges against him for illegal gambling and racketeering. He’s pissed that we’re not paying for his defense attorney. He’s using some legal aid attorney.”

“I’m sorry about Tyler,” I frowned.

“I love him very much, but he’s an idiot and married an idiot,” Beverly sighed sadly. “Anyway, part of Lauren’s plea was to pay back restitution. She obviously can’t because she’s broke. So, the police are liquidating their assets and Lauren’s parents are also being hit up for money.”

“What does that mean?”

“Penny Mallory will be paying the money that Lauren stole from you, with interest, by the end of the year,” Beverly said.

“How is that possible? Why should Penny Mallory pay for her daughter’s crimes?”

“Because Penny was complicit in helping Lauren come up with the idea,” Beverly explained. “She also has to pay me back as well.”

“I can also send you back that money you gave me …” I breathed. “You shouldn’t have to pay for Lauren’s crimes.”

“No, that’s my restitution for forcing you to deal with that bitch,” Beverly snorted. “Bella, I know that you were dealing with something while you were in Forks. I hope that you’re truly happy.”

“When I was in Forks, I wasn’t. My boyfriend and I had a huge disagreement, followed by him getting into a car accident,” I explained. “Mark came to the door and I nearly had a fucking heart attack, Bev. It was like my parents’ accident all over again.”

“And now? Is everything okay now?”

“Edward is healing slowly. He had some pretty significant injuries, but he’s returning back to work next week,” I explained. “We’re also healing slowly, as well. I’m also seeing a therapist for irrational fears about driving. I haven’t driven since … the beginning of July. I was forced to do it in Forks, but I damn near lost it when I drove past the accident scene. I couldn’t do it. Even now, I struggle with the prospect of driving, but my psychiatrist and therapist are awesome. Patient, kind and understanding. Thankfully, Chicago has a decent public transit system.” Alice was waving at me, pointing to her wrist. “Bev, I need to go. I’ve got a meeting. Thank you for the information about Lauren. I hope that things go well for Tyler.”

“Thanks, honey,” Beverly said. “Keep in touch and don’t be a stranger.”

“Will do, Bev,” I smiled, ending the call and picking up my laptop. I met up with Alice, Victoria and Laurent in the small conference room. Victoria scurried over to me, enfolding me in a hug. “Hello to you, too.”

“I was worried about you, girl,” Victoria said. “Ever since I heard what happened with the launch of Jane’s clothing company, I was an anxious wreck. I do not want to lose you.”

“You were ready to pilfer me from MAC to become your personal advertising guru,” I teased, opening my computer and sending the mockups for the holiday campaign onto the screen. For a moment, I was tempted, but I didn’t want to leave MAC. I didn’t want to leave Chicago. Despite all that had happened between me and Edward when I spoke with Victoria, a couple days after Edward’s birthday, I couldn’t give up.

He’d already had too many people ‘throw him away,’ as he put it.

I didn’t want to be another person to throw him away. He may have hurt me, but I still loved him and always will. Our love has grown, as had our friendship since that day, his birthday, and I feel like we’re closer than ever. I missed seeing him around the office, but he was coming back soon.

“Bells, this is beautiful work,” Victoria breathed, looking at the screen with the digital mockups. “When do we get to start principal photography?”

“As soon as the products are ready,” I answered. “I’ve already made arrangements for a studio, several models and the materials needed for the print campaign, commercial shoots and social media. This is the design for the PR packages, which I’ve already sent to your public relations department to begin compiling.”

“This is why I love you, Bella,” Victoria grinned. “Right, Laurent?”

“You understand our aesthetic and are so on-top of everything,” Laurent replied, flipping through some other options on his iPad.

“Bella is one of our best,” Alice said. “Her work has been nominated and has won several Clio Awards, both at the local and national level.”

“I have?” I asked.

“You were in Forks. I went and accepted your behalf,” Alice said, giving me a look of uncertainty. “Your local wins were for the Fringe campaign and that spa in the suburbs.”

“And national wins?” Victoria asked.

“For New Moon Cosmetics,” Alice breathed, blinking to Victoria. “I’m certain that you will be nominated for your work on the York Towne Clothing line as well. Congratulations, Bella.”

“Thank you,” I blushed. “I wish could have been there, but …”

“Bells, you had other things to contend with and regardless of you being there or not, you are still the recipient of the awards. Yes, it was a team effort, but you were the one who came up with the ideas and built the relationship with the client,” Alice said, hugging me.

“Well, I think we’re all good with this campaign. I think we need to celebrate Bella,” Victoria said. “I was the one who put in the nomination for New Moon. You deserve this.” She rubbed her hands together with an eager grin. “Let’s get lit!”

A/N: I had some other plans for this, but I think those would be best in the upcoming chapter. I also didn’t write the Clio awards because they happened while Bella was in Forks, selling her home and dealing with the aftermath of Edward’s accident. However, she did win several awards.

Pictures from this chapter are on my blog. You can see Bella’s psychiatrist and what they did for their date. You can access my blog from a link in my profile. I’m also on FB: Tufano79’s Twilight Fanfiction Appreciation. Twitter, too: tufano79.

Up next will be Edward and will probably be the last real chapter before the epilogue. Leave me your thoughts! Thank you for reading!

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