After a forced marriage filled with violence, Bella escapes from Edward with their unborn child. Almost four years later, Edward has found her and their daughter and he refuses to let them go.
"Jane! will you hear reason?' (he stooped and approached his lips to my ear)
'because, if you won't, I'll try violence."
- Charlotte Brontë
Lie To Me
As each mile flew by under the tyres, Bella slowly began to wonder if she'd made the right decision. Suddenly, her adrenaline-motivated reasons began to sound flimsy, and the enormity of her actions began to weigh on her. That mixed with the realisation that she and Alexis had nowhere to go, no real destination in sight, terrified her. It was just like when she'd run from Chicago, except this time it was worse. This time she had a three year old with her. One who, despite being conceived by two people who'd had a disturbed relationship, had never experienced anything except love and kindness. Even when Bella's world had taken turns for the worse, she always made sure Alexis was cared for. Now, there was a very real possibility that it could all be ruined.
There was also Edward to worry about. Bella knew that he would not take this lying down. She was back to where she'd been before he'd arrived- with the fear that he could find them again looming over her head. Running could be the spark that set off the fire of Edward's rage. But even the reminder of what could happen wasn't enough to quell the guilt she felt. She began to wonder if taking Alexis had been too drastic of a decision. Her reasoning four years ago was valid. She and Edward were always knocking heads and fists, and she couldn't bring a child into an abusive home. Now, however, she wasn't sure if she could use that excuse.
He could hurt her, her mind argued, but she wasn't sure. Even though it had only been two days, she could see that he was trying. Trying what, she wasn't sure. Trying to earn her trust? Trying to lead her into false hope? Or trying to do the right thing? What happened to her house disturbed her, and if Edward had slipped back into his old ways, his "trying" was irrelevant.
It was all so confusing, and she wanted to push it out of her mind. What's done was done, and there was no going back. But she couldn't completely get rid of it. Not with the reminder of everything sitting in the backseat.
Alexis had not stopped talking about her promised toy store visit since they'd left Forks. Bella didn't have the heart to tell her that the visit may not happen. She considered explaining to Alexis that they weren't going back to Forks, but the guilt kept her silent. Not only would Alexis be upset that she wasn't getting her present, she would also be devastated that they weren't going back for her bear.
"When we go back, I think I'll get Uniqua instead," Alexis said from the backseat. "What do you think, Mom?"
Bella hadn't really been paying attention to what Alexis had been saying. Now she tuned back in.
"I said, what do you think about Uniqua as my present?" she explained.
"Is that the purple one?" Bella asked.
"No. The purple one is Austin. Uniqua is the pink one."
"Oh, I see," Bella said, though she really didn't. To her, all those characters looked alike.
"Maybe Daddy will let me get two," Alexis said, as she looked out the window.
Bella cringed at the word. Alexis had been using it a lot since that first time. In a desperate attempt to change the topic, Bella said, "Do you want to play a game?"
"Let's play I-spy," Bella said, calling the first game that came to her mind.
"How do you play?"
"Well," she said, glad that her plan was working, "we'll each chose an object for the other person to guess. Like a car for example. You look at the colour then to give the other person a clue; you have to say, 'I spy something red.' The other person has to look around and try to guess what the object is. Do you understand?"
Alexis nodded. "Can I go first?"
"Okay," Bella said.
Bella watched through the rearview mirror as Alexis looked through the window for an object. There wasn't much to see on Route 12.
"I spy something green," Alexis called.
Bella had to stifle a laugh. They were somewhere close to Snoqualmie National Forest so everything around them was green. It wasn't hard to guess the answer. She decided to still play along.
"Can you give me a hint?"
Alexis laughed. "It's also tall."
"A tree?" Bella asked.
"You got it."
They continued like that for a while, each taking a turn. When that ran out, they counted red cars that passed, then blue and green. Bella was glad for the distraction. Not only for Alexis, but also for herself. "I'm hungry," Alexis called suddenly.
Looking at the dashboard clock, Bella saw it was after five in the evening. They'd been driving for a while, and she wasn't even sure where they were headed. Figuring they both needed a rest, Bella pulled off at the first exit she could find. She continued down a road until she spotted a small cafe and after pulling into the front parkinglot, Bella and Alexis walked in.
The cafe was tiny with only a few occupants, mainly truck drivers: and one bored looking waitress. They chose a seat almost in the back next to a window. After a few minutes, the waitress, dressed in the usual attire of a button up shirt and skirt, walked over with a note pad in her hand.
"Welcome to Cal's Cafe, how may I help you?" she droned, as she handed Bella a menu and placed a kid's menu with crayons in front of Alexis. Looking at the menu, Bella saw that the food wasn't overly expensive, but unlike Alexis, food was the last thing on her mind, so she ordered fries and chicken strips for one.
Alexis ate while Bella weighed her options. While she was delivering Alexis's food, Bella asked the waitress and learned they were close to Spokane, Washington. Bella couldn't believe that after all that driving, they still hadn't left Washington. They did not have a lot of money, so getting a hotel or even a motel was definitely not an option. She wanted to get Alexis somewhere safe where she could sleep for the night. That left either sleeping in the car or finding a women's shelter. Bella couldn't help the shiver that ran down her spine at the memory of being in a shelter a few years back. The shelters she'd stayed at weren't horrible; they just weren't something she ever wanted Alexis to be exposed to. Some nights were so much harder than others, when you were constantly surrounded by people who were broken. The memory of women with vicious bruises and cuts all over their bodies and children scared and begging to go home was a memory she would rather leave buried deep within the recesses of her mind. But even if they went to a shelter, what would they do after that? They were still on the run from Edward, and they couldn't live in a shelter forever.
Pain gripped Bella at the reminder of him, but not for the reasons she thought. There was so much more Edward could provide for Alexis than she ever could. Time and time again she had to deny her daughter all the things she'd wanted and needed, because she could never afford them. Alexis had been begging to start ballet classes for a long time, but it was too expensive. She couldn't even give Alexis a proper home, or at least one with electricity.
Bella thought of her mother and how much she wished Renee was there to help her. She knew that if her mother had known, she would have helped Bella in every way possible. Throughout the years they'd been in Forks, Bella had felt a sense of loneliness creeping over her when she thought of Renee. Yes, she had Alexis and a few friends, but that still wasn't enough. She wanted her mother. She wanted someone closer to her to help her. She wanted someone on her side. She often felt like she was the only one fighting this. She missed the comfort her own mother could bring to her. She missed having someone else give directions for once, but Bella still couldn't bring herself to involve her mother in the mess that had become her life. No matter how much she missed her.
"Are we going back home tonight?" Alexis asked suddenly. Her green eyes were intent as she looked at Bella. Bella thought about her answer before she answered. She knew she would have to come clean eventually.
"Not tonight," Bella said quietly, bracing herself for the tears she knew would come.
Alexis seemed to freeze for a moment before she started. "But...but...what about Maisie?" Alexis blubbered, tears accumulating in her eyes. "You said we were going back for him."
"I know, but we can't. I'll get you a new bear," Bella said, desperately trying to calm the situation. The waitress was looking at them curiously.
"But I don't want another bear, I want Maisie," she cried, shaking her head. "Why can't we just go home?"
"We just can't," was all Bella could say.
Alexis pouted as she picked at what was left of her meal, tears still running down her face. Then looking up she asked, "Did we have to leave because of Daddy?"
Bella opened her mouth to respond, but no sound would come out so she closed it. Looking at Alexis, Bella wondered if now was the time to tell her what had happened between her and Edward. She knew she could never tell her the full story, but she wondered if she should at least explain to Alexis that her father had hurt her mother in the past. Maybe it would stop her from asking for Edward all the time. But Bella couldn't bring herself to do it. Alexis was still at the age where she saw everything as good. She believed in fairies and princesses. The only bad she knew of was what was portrayed in movies. She didn't know that evil existed in the most unlikely of places; even in family members. Even though explaining to Alexis would make it easier for her, Bella couldn't do that to her. She didn't want to break her childhood belief of all things good. To tell Alexis what her father was really like, or had been like, would crush her. Alexis saw Edward as good, and Bella didn't think she was malicious enough to change that. Not without proper justification at least.
"Why don't you finish eat so we can head out?" Bella said, completely changing the subject. Alexis continued pouting, but she didn't argue.
When they finally got on the road again, the drive was quiet. Looking through the rearview mirror, Bella saw that Alexis was quietly staring out the window. There were tear trail marks down her cheeks, and every now and again, she would hiccup. The guilt felt a little bit heavier.
Looking out the window, Bella scanned the area for something to cheer her up. She spotted what looked like a small ranch with different colour horses grazing in a field.
"Look, Lexie, horses," Bella said, relieved for the distraction.
Alexis's head turned immediately to look out the window. When she spotted the animals, her eyes lit up.
"Oh! Can we stop? Please, Mommy?" she begged.
She didn't have to beg twice before Bella pulled off to the side of the road so they could take a look.
"I like the white one," Alexis said, as Bella unbuckled her. "But I don't want to go too close."
They walked over to the fence, then Bella held Alexis up so she could see better. Bella disliked animals and the smells they came with, so she had to fight to stop from gagging.
A sign on the ranch door said the owners were allowing rides on the horses for a small fee.
"Would you like to take a ride?" Bella asked. Alexis shook her head immediately. "Why? Don't you like horses?"
Alexis thought for a moment. "I do. But they're so much bigger than me. They could hurt me."
"I'll stay close to you so they don't. Would you like to try?" Bella asked.
Alexis shook her head again, so Bella let it drop. They stood watching the horses graze for a while and just for that moment; Bella was able to put the turmoil in her life out of her mind but only for that moment.
"The Bahamas?" Bella asked in disbelief as she spotted the national flag. Even though she'd never ventured outside of the United States, Bella had always dreamed of travelling the world, so she recognized the flag right away. It was on her list of places she wanted to visit.
"Welcome to the Bahamas," Edward said laughing slightly as he pressed his lips to her hair. Looking around, Bella knew they were definitely not on any of the main islands. Except for three houses Bella had been able to spot from the air, this island was relatively deserted.
"Why did you choose here?" she asked curiously. They were standing on the runway after just stepping off of the plane. Security was busy taking the luggage off.
"I knew you'd always wanted to come, so I pulled some strings and asked for a particular graduation gift from Carlisle."
Her face must have been riddled with confusion, because Edward was quick to rectify what he thought was the problem.
"If you want we could go somewhere else, maybe France or Italy? Anywhere you want."
Bella couldn't help but laugh."No, it's not that. To think I thought my graduation present was amazing."
"What did you get?" Edward asked curiously.
"A car," Bella said, shrugging.
"Well, this is your gift as well. The island is ours," Edward said, leading her away from the plane. Bella noticed that for once, security did not follow them.
Even though she had always wanted to visit the Bahamas, for some reason being there brought a sense of sadness to her.
"Are you okay?" Edward asked, seeing the distress on her face.
"Yeah, it's just, this reminds me of Florida and it makes me miss my mom a bit," she admitted. She didn't know if admitting it was good or detrimental but either way, she wanted to bare her soul, especially after all that had happened with Esme. Even though they were thousands of miles away, her mother-in-law's words still stung.
"It will be okay," Edward said softly, pausing to caress her cheek.
"I know." She smiled reassuringly.
Hand in hand they walked to one of the few houses on the island. As they approached, Bella saw that it wasn't so much a house, as a restaurant with an outdoor eating area. A man stood behind a counter wiping a glass. A woman stood next to him listening to music on a small radio.
"Good evening Mr. Cullen," he said to Edward and then he turned to Bella, "Mrs. Cullen."
Bella was slightly taken aback by the name. It was odd hearing her referred to as 'Mrs. Cullen.'
"Good evening," Edward replied.
"Table for two?" the man asked.
Edward nodded and led Bella over to one of the small tables to sit. When they were seated, the woman came over and took their orders. After they were left alone, Edward turned to her and asked,"How are you feeling?"
Bella thought for a moment before she answered. The day had really been something. Between everything that happened before, during and after the wedding, Bella was having a hard time sorting it all out. She also had a hard time sorting out how she felt about it all.
"It's been quite a day," she told Edward.
"But good?" he asked. His tone sounded worried.
She wasn't sure if good was really how she'd describe it, but she had to remember she was walking on thin ice with Edward, so she nodded her head in agreement.
Dinner was filled with all sorts of dishes and delicacies that neither Bella nor Edward had ever tasted. They each teased and dared the other to try the meals first. By the end, both were laughing, and Bella was really enjoying herself.
"Care for one last spin for the night?" Edward asked after they'd finished. He held out his hand to her and motioned for the waitress to turn up the music on the radio.
"Sure, why not," Bella said. In one day she'd already done so much more than she thought she ever would.
Edward pulled Bella close into his arms and pressed his lips gently to her hair. Never in a million years had Bella thought she would be married at eighteen and be with her husband in the Bahamas. Above all, she never thought she'd actually feel something for Edward again. She didn't want that moment to end, but it was getting late. So with final goodbyes, they left.
On their way, they paused for a moment to take off their shoes so they could walk easier on the sand. It was soft under Bella's feet. The sound of the ocean and the salty smell of the air surrounded them as they walked hand in hand towards one of the houses Bella had spotted from the air.
They walked up a small incline, then, when the ground leveled off, Bella was given her first proper view of the house. The sight caused her to pause.
Tucked neatly close to a dock with scattered palm trees behind it, the house looked like something right out of one of her travel magazines. With its two-story architecture and large glass windows, the white house was stunning. One side of the porch led to the docks, the other to the beach. The porch lights were on, indicating someone had prepared for their arrival.
"What do you think?" Edward asked, allowing her a moment to take in the spectacle before her.
"It's beautiful," she breathed.
"You really like it?" Edward asked. He looked relieved.
"I do," Bella said, unable to contain the smile on her face.
"Well, let's take a look around," Edward said, leading her up onto the porch.
The door was unlocked. When they stepped inside, Edward flicked on a light on the wall. From their spot, Bella could see a large fully furnished living room and dining area. The large glass windows she'd seen from the outside were even more amazing from the inside, as it gave a full view of the ocean. Edward led her on a tour of the house as he told her about the activities they could do on the island. Even though he never spoke of the security precautions, Bella was almost certain there were. Even if she were to run now, she wouldn't get far.
Edward left her to get ready for bed in the master bedroom, while he used the guest room. Bella appreciated his gesture. She was still getting used to the whole idea of having a husband. Standing under the shower in the bathroom, Bella thought more of what tonight meant.
She was still confused regarding her feelings for Edward. One minute, she hated him for all he'd done to her, but the next, she loved him with a depth that was able to look past all he'd done. She remembered when she'd first fallen for him and how incredible he was. He made her feel safe. He made her happy. Then the other side of him had to rise up and crush the gentle Edward she'd known. But that was then. The more time she spent with Edward alone, the more she was reminded of how much she loved him. The Edward that was with her on the island was not the same Edward who'd abused her in Florida. She wondered if that Edward was buried now that he'd gotten what he wanted. Maybe showing him just how much she loved him could make this Edward stay with her. Maybe then, monster Edward would disappear forever.
Now, she was sure. She wanted to take her relationship with him to the next level. She wanted to really feel him, in a way no other person ever had. She wanted him to know she loved him. Shutting off the water, Bella dried herself off and brushed her teeth. With a towel wrapped around her, she stepped out into the bedroom. Edward still hadn't returned. She rummaged through the suitcase he'd pointed out as hers. She grumbled as she was met with all sorts of lace and strings. Clearly, whoever had packed her suitcase did not get the memo of who Bella was. After searching from top to bottom, she gave up with a defeated sigh.
Walking to the window in the bedroom, Bella stood with the towel wrapped around her, taking in the scene before her. The moon was bright enough that she was able to separate sand from sea. Taking a deep breath, Bella tried to guess what the future held for her. She couldn't even begin to guess.
She didn't notice Edward's arrival until his arms wrapped around her waist. He was dressed in just a pair of sleep pants. His skin was soft and his hair still damp.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, pressing his lips to just beneath her ear.
"Everything," she answered truthfully. The feel of his lips against her skin made her eyes close.
"Why do you have on a towel? Didn't you find proper clothes?" he asked, resting his hands on hers.
"I tried but was met with thongs and pink, I figured I'd look away before it rose up and ate me."
He chuckled in response. He turned her until she was facing him. His hands still held hers where she held the towel. "I will love you forever," he swore.
As much as she wanted to, she didn't know if she should fully believe his words. She knew how she felt, but after all that had happened she still wasn't sure how he felt.
"I love you, too," she whispered and then she let the towel drop.
She spoke with honesty when she told him she loved him; she wondered if he did when he told her the same thing.
His hands were gentle as he held her face in his hands. What started out as a gentle kiss, quickly turned into one of passion as Bella's body molded to his. Her hand seemed to move of its own accord as it tugged at his pants. Within minutes, they were both lying naked beneath the covers. Having his body pressed against hers was a feeling she never wanted to forget.
"We don't have to if you don't want to," Edward whispered against her lips.
Bella could see the truth in his eyes. Even though he'd forced her to marry him, he would never force her to do something like this.
She could have said no, and the rational part of her mind said she should, but she didn't want to. She'd always dreamed of her first time being with Edward, but that was before everything had turned her world upside down. The rational part of her brain screamed that it was wrong to want someone like him. But Bella had never been a rational person.
"I want you," she whispered.
She never could have predicted just how much more her world could spin out of control. She couldn't have known that night would create a person that would bind them together for the rest of their lives. She couldn't have known that night was one of the last few good nights she would ever have again with Edward.
Pulling up in the parking lot behind the shelter, Bella shut off the engine but didn't make a move to get out of the car. It was almost midnight, and Alexis had long since fallen asleep on the backseat. The area was quiet, still and deserted. The only light came from a lamp overhead. The shelter was still open, and even though it offered some sort of security, Bella couldn't help but look at it with contempt. How had life landed her back here? With one last deep breath, she exited the car.
Opening the rear door to get Alexis, Bella's back was to the road, so she didn't see someone coming up behind her until the person was just inches away.
"I missed you," the voice whispered. The air seemed to chill slightly, and her eyes widened in fear. She turned just as James pressed his back to the rear door, effectively closing it. Alexis was still fast asleep.
"What are you doing here?" Bella demanded. Her voice shook slightly, and she willed it to stay straight. James was like a wild animal. He sensed fear and fed off of it.
"Like I said, I missed you. I passed by your house earlier today, but you weren't there. Did you like the message I left?" James asked as his eyes roamed over her body. The way he was looking at her made her feel dirty. She regretted not coming to the shelter during daylight. No one would hear her if she called for help.
"You did that to my house?" she asked in disbelief. That meant Edward hadn't done it. The last excuse she had to reinforce her decision to keep Alexis away from Edward had gone up in smoke. If something happened to Alexis, it would be her fault. The guilt seemed to press hard on her lungs, and she couldn't even say anything as James wrapped his arms around her. Pressing his lips to her ear, he whispered, "It was the only way to get my message across. Now seeing as you left Forks, I'm guessing you left the asshole that was with you last night. Does that mean you finally give in?"
For a moment her body was frozen, but at the reminder of Edward, she pulled herself away from him.
"How the hell did you find me?" she asked, trying to distract him. Maybe if she kept him talking long enough, someone would come outside and help her.
"I followed you, of course. I was parked up just outside of Elma when I saw you pass by. You looked upset, so I figured you might need some cheering up," he said suggestively. When he reached out to grab her hand, she pulled away.
That only angered him. Grabbing her arms, he yanked her until she was in front of the car. She tried to fight him off, and yell for help, but he put one hand over her mouth. His other hand held her wrists together. Holding her so her back was to his front, he pressed his lips to her neck and said, "The boy toy is not here to help you this time, so you might want to reconsider pissing me off." Taking his hand off her mouth, he rested it on her stomach under her shirt. His voice took on a seductive tone. "Are you ready to give into me? Or do I have to use the brat in the car as an incentive?"
Bella shook her head pleadingly, tears rolling down her face. She now wished she'd stayed with Edward. She feared, not for herself, but for the little girl on the backseat. All the ways James could hurt Alexis ran through her mind, and now, she wished Edward was there. Edward at least hadn't threatened to harm Alexis.
"Don't hurt her," she pleaded. Not even the fear of what Edward could do to her compared to her fear of what James could do to Alexis.
James smiled a sick, twisted smile that made her stomach lurch. He removed his hand from under her shirt and held both her hands behind her back. Fear and hate gripped Bella as she realised what he was about to do and the realisation that she would have to do it if she wanted to keep her daughter safe. Then another voice filled the night.
"I wouldn't do that if I were you," Edward said. Looking at him, Bella saw that his face matched his voice- cold and hard. The chill that came with James's arrival was nothing compared to Edward's. Standing close to the back door of the car, Edward looked like an avenging angel. The anger on his face seemed to demand violence and blood. Three of his guards stood on either side of him. A few yards from them was a black SUV.
Bella couldn't help the relief she felt at the sight of him.
"Alexis," she whispered breathlessly. Looking through the back window, Edward spotted his daughter.
"Dean, take her," he said, as he opened the door. Dean lifted Alexis, still sleeping, from the backseat and carried her to the SUV.
When Alexis was safely in the van, Edward turned back to the scene. "Leave now," he said. His voice was cold, but there was fire in his eyes.
James just gave him a smug grin. Pulling Bella more tightly against him, he said, "Why don't you leave?" Then his hand returned to under Bella's shirt and began travelling up.
That sent Edward over the edge.
"Grab him," Edward told the guards next to him.
James threw Bella away from his body, and Edward caught her before she could hit the ground. James spun around to run, but he didn't get very far before security grabbed him and pinned him against the hard ground. He cried out as his face hit the concrete.
"Are you okay?" Edward asked, as he steadied her. Bella's body was shaking at the close call she'd just had. That mixed with the realisation that if Edward hadn't been there, it would have ended worse, terrified her. Edward had to keep a hold on her arms to stop her from tipping over.
"I'm fine," Bella said. Her voice shook, and for once, she didn't try to mask it behind false bravery.
"Get rid of him," Edward told his guards, who still had James pressed against the ground. Bella saw that he was covered in blood from where his head had hit the concrete. She didn't fight as Edward led her to the SUV. Just like before, she knew she had nowhere to go.
"Sam's car," Bella said, pointing to the other vehicle. She kept her eyes away from where Edward's security team was dragging a kicking and screaming James away.
"They'll bring it," Edward said. "I just need to get you and Alexis out of here."
When they reached the van they found Alexis still asleep in Dean's arms. Dean handed her over to Bella right away and exited the van, leaving Edward, Bella and Alexis alone in the back. He then got into the front, and they drove off.
Even though Bella had Alexis safe in her arms, she still shook with fear. She had to fight to keep the tears from falling. She felt like a failure as a parent. Knowing that James could have harmed Alexis, and there wasn't anything she could do about it, hit her hard. Her earlier thoughts of how much more Edward could provide for Alexis ran through her mind.
She didn't notice Edward still watching her. Even though there was enough room in the van, he sat close enough to her that he was almost touching her. His expression was much calmer compared to earlier when he'd faced off against James.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he asked.
Bella nodded, but they both knew it was a lie. Looking out the window, Bella saw that they were driving deeper into Spokane.
"Where are we going?" she asked.
"To a hotel. I figured you'd want to lay her down," he said. Then looking deep into her eyes, he added, "And we need to talk."
"Yes, we do," Bella replied. She knew what she had to do. Just like before with James, she knew she had to sacrifice her well-being to better protect her daughter. What had almost happened with James hit her hard, and she was prepared to do everything it took to make sure that never happened again.
Bella didn't speak again to Edward, as they made their way to the hotel. She didn't even protest when Edward got them one room, or when he put his hand on the small of her back as he led them up to the room.
When Bella stepped inside the suite, she was reminded of the time when she'd been taken from the basement to a hotel room just like this. It was even laid out the same.
When the door closed behind them, Edward opened his mouth to speak, but she stopped him.
"Let me put her down first," she said, indicating to the still sleeping child in her arms.
Bella carried Alexis to the bedroom and laid her down on the king sized bed. She pulled off Alexis's shoes and coat so she'd be comfortable. Before leaving the room, Bella pressed her lips gently to Alexis's forehead. Then she left her to her undisturbed dreams, hoping the entire time that the sounds that would come from the other room would not wake her up.
Edward was sitting on the couch facing away from her when she walked in. Taking a seat next to him, she braced herself for what she knew would come.
Bella thought he looked oddly tired. His hair, which usually looked unkempt, looked even more in a state of disarray. When he looked at her, he himself looked defeated. "Bella-," but she stopped him.
"Please don't," she said. Then taking a deep breath, she took the plunge. "I give in."
Edward looked at her, confused. "What?"
She looked at the floor as she spoke. "I don't want to fight you anymore on this. I give in," she repeated, and it was true. After almost four years, she was ready to throw in the towel and admit defeat. She was ready to admit he was right when he'd said that he always got what he wanted. "I see now that no matter where I go you'll always find me, and I can't keep ripping Alexis away from her home. If you want to drag me back to Chicago, I won't fight you. Also..." she paused.
"Also?" Edward asked, prompting her to continue.
Looking up into his eyes, Bella said, "Also, you can give her more than I can. I'll take the abuse, and whatever else you throw at me. I won't run, but you have to promise me something."
Edward waited for her to continue.
"Promise me you won't hurt her, and you won't hurt me in front of her. I don't want that embedded in her mind."
"You'd do that?" he asked in disbelief.
Bella nodded. "I would do it for her."
Picking up his hand, she entwined his fingers with hers. She leaned into him and pressed her lips to his neck. Edward wrapped his arms around her and held her to him.
He stroked her hair as he said, "But I don't want that."
Bella froze and then she pulled away from him in anger. "Then what do you want from me, Edward? I give in. I'm waving the white flag. Do you want to draw out my torture? Is that it? Do you like to play cat and mouse?"
"No, that's not it," Edward said.
"Then what?" she demanded. She didn't want to fight anymore, but it seemed he did.
"Bella," he said, kneeling in front of her. "I want to prove to you that I've changed. That's what I've been trying to show you over the weekend. But it doesn't seem to have been enough"
For some reason, his words ignited the fire in her, and she exploded.
"Enough?" Bella yelled, standing now. "Did you really think two days would make up for the months of hell you put me through? I lost everything because of you!" A small sense of deja vu came across her as she remembered three times before that night when she'd yelled similar things to Edward. Both had ended with her covered in bruises, but just like then, her anger got the best of her, and she yelled what she felt, regardless of the consequences.
This time, instead of anger, sadness and regret covered Edward's features, but she didn't let that stop her.
"I haven't seen my mother in four years, Edward! Four fucking years!" she screamed. All the anger and pain from the last several years had been bottling up inside of her. Now she was ready to release it. "I don't even know if she's alive! I lost my friends, my future. Do you think at eighteen I wanted to be married? That I wanted to be pregnant? You have no idea what I've been through since you ripped me from my home. Two days will never make up for that. No amount of time would ever make up for that."
Her breathing was heavy as she looked at him, bracing herself for the anger she was so used to seeing. But it didn't come. He remained motionless on the floor, still kneeling before her.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice breaking as he whispered the words. "Bella, I'm so sorry. I know that 'I'm sorry' would never make up for what I did to you, but please, I will do anything to make it up to you; anything to get you back. Just tell me what you want from me and I'll do it. I want there to be a you and me."
He reached forward and took her hands in his. His touch was so gentle. She'd forgotten that he could be gentle. Bella's heart squeezed at his words, and despite her anger, she had to fight to keep her heart in check. Now wasn't the time to let emotions overrule her judgement.
"There will never be a you and me, Edward," she said, kneeling in front of him and pulling her hand from his. When he looked at her, there were tears in his eyes.
"Bella," he whispered. "I can't let you both go. Please, give me chance. I'll do anything. Tell me what you want."
Bella shook her head. "It's not about what I want. It's what Alexis wants and what's best for her. As much as I hate it, she wants you."
He reached out to take her hand again, but she pulled it away and continued. "But I don't know if you in her life is what's best for her."
Edward nodded. "I want to be there for her, too. I'll do whatever you want me to. Anything to prove to you that I've changed. That I'm not the monster I was before," he said.
"Anything?" she asked.
He nodded. "Anything."
She couldn't help but wonder if that was even possible. Could someone like Edward really change? Bella couldn't deny the determination in his eyes. She thought for a moment. If this went wrong, it would end badly. Not just for her but for Alexis as well. But it would hurt Alexis also, if she never saw her father again. Alexis held onto Edward with a tight grip. Bella weighed her options carefully, before she made a decision.
"Okay, I'll let you be a part of Alexis's life under three conditions. First, you have to go to therapy." Edward opened his mouth to protest, but Bella raised her hand, halting his words. "You need help, Edward. You have serious problems. Problems that are probably why you did what you did."
He couldn't argue with her on that. "I'll do it. Second?" he asked.
"Second, you can't be alone with her. Ever. I have to always be there." He nodded in agreement to that.
"Third," Bella braced herself for this one, fearing his reaction. She knew it had to be said. "You have to cut off all ties with your family. That includes your mother."
He didn't respond to her request. He just stared at her, with unsure eyes.
"You have to choose Edward. Your mother or your daughter."
He didn't even hesitate as he responded, "I choose both of you."
Bella's didn't respond to him adding her to the equation, but she nodded her head at his acceptance.
"Okay, but I ask for three in return," he said. "First, you have to promise me that you won't take her and run again." He paused, waiting for her to protest, but when she didn't he continued. "Second, you can't tell her what happened between the two of us."
Now Bella was confused. "Why?"
"I know what happened between us was bad, but I don't want Alexis to ever be afraid of me," Edward explained.
Bella couldn't deny his reasoning.
"Do we have a deal?" he asked.
"But that was two."
Edward smiled slightly, but it didn't reach his eyes. "I'll come up with something else later."
They were silent for a moment, and then when Edward spoke again, Bella could hear the hope, see the desperation in his eyes and voice. "Do you think you'll ever trust me again?"
She didn't trust her voice, so she shook her head instead. She wasn't going to fall for that again. If he wanted to be in Alexis's life, she would give him a chance, but she swore she would never let her feelings for him blind her to the truth. She'd made that mistake in the past and paid for it time and time again.
For that moment, she allowed herself to hope, but she wasn't naive enough to believe. It was one step forward, but with the way life was always dishing out more problems, she was already bracing herself for the three steps back.
Are you ready for the three steps back? I really appreciate all of your feedback so if you have a moment, don't forget to review.
No chapter is complete without me giving my usual thanks so thank you for your kind words, and a hearty welcome to all my new readers.
Also, thank you to my twitter friend A is for Angel for all the recs and for being such a sweet person.
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Special thanks to Project Team Beta, Twilightmom505 and BelleDuJour for proof-reading